We all need to realise that there is a heavy ecological price to be paid for the sort of informal learning that comes from using an internet search engine. Apparently – according to new research by Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross – using the Google search engine to perform two searches produces some 7g of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to the carbon dioxide generated by boiling a kettle of water. Wissner-Gross determined this statistic by studying the amount of power consumed by Google’s many datacentres around the world. Naturally, Google disputes these figures – claiming, instead, that a typical search produces only some 0.2g of carbon dioxide.
Comment: This story illustrates perfectly the current problems with eco-research: it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth and ridiculously easy to generate a headline. Moreover, this story may not be so simple – or impartial – as it may sound, since Wissner-Gross’ work is related to co2stats.com, a carbon-trading operation that aims to help companies identify ‘energy inefficient’ elements of their websites.