Is Earth Dying Every Google Search at a Time?

Today everything one wants to know about is just a click away. It may be the number of extras in a match, the latest sensex tide or the fastest rollercoaster ride or even the newest hope campaign launched by the President Elect. But someone is paying a very grave price for all this easy access. This someone is none other than the planet we live in-The Earth. Even while researching for this article I am helping this heinous process. According the recent research by Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist, using Google search can actually harm the environment. In his paper he has pointed out that every Google search generates an amount of 7gm of CO2 which when compared to 15 gm for a tea kettle is a “definite environmental impact”.


It makes quite an intriguing question as to how a search engine can amount to release some carbon contents. And if you were to guess that perhaps the uses of word ‘engine’ then I only pity you. The problem is in the way Google search works. Any search uses more than one server. In case of Google the servers are thousand miles apart. Google have servers in the US, Europe, Japan and China. Each search causes the information to be uploaded from each of these servers. It has been estimated that the number of internet searches in a day is around 200 million. With this amount of search being done each day, the amount of electricity consumption and greenhouse gases that this would release is unimaginable. It’s estimated that the global IT industry has a carbon footprint similar to that of the airline industry. That is to say that the IT industry could account for as much as 2% of global CO2 emissions.


The data centers Google search refer to are the most energy intensive units. These are the junctions where chunks of information are stored. Every time one searches anything on the Google search it takes out information from these datacenters. Google’s infrastructure sends you data from the centre which produces the answer fastest. The system minimizes delays but raises energy consumption leading to the emission of green house gases. According to the latest research doing two Google search from a desktop computer is equal to boiling one tea kettle full of water. And with the amount of Google searches done daily this situation looks alarming.


Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has also set up a website In which he quotes as “Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy”.


Google has been an organization that pride itself of using the green computing technology. There’s no doubt that Google consumes a massive amount of energy, with hundreds of millions of searches conducted every day and data centers scattered across the globe. But then let’s see how grave this crime is. There are a number of times when one instead of driving to a local library refers Goolge search for some data. Similarly the train and bus schedules and many more daily needed information is available on the Search engine, fetching which otherwise would have cost multiple times emission through our transport then caused by a simple search.


Google is a company which is riding high on green credentials. It is a supporter of the Earth Day campaign which addresses environmental issues. So even if its top official deny of any environmental degradation caused by their search engine it should not neglect the issue as a whole. Perhaps the data retrieval system could be made more efficient. Also in any search we do, there are a numbers of links which are not that essential. The search could be made more specific. Google could basically divide the search engine in two segments. One could be dealing with the routine and general search. In these only simple data retrieval system could be used. Second it can have a detailed segment when large amount of information is required. Well a company as big as Google can definetly comes up with a more fitting solution.


This article should not be taken as warning as if the icebergs have started melting. But it could possibly be taken as a debatable issue and appropriate measures should be taken within time. The issue is not to take Google as an evil thing and that every time you use it you’re adding to the problem. It’s just a wakeup call before things go out of hand. Google could probably become more energy efficient. Unlike gas guzzling SUVs and E-class cars, the web helps connect and enrich humanity. So it’s time to encourage web companies to become as carbon neutral as possible instead of making the ‘energy conscious’ customer afraid and hesitant in using the browsers.

Harshit Shukla

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