Monday, 7 June 2010

One Thousand Google Searches Equal the Green House Emissions of a Car Drive One Kilometer, and Other Tales of the New Age

Is it possible that all that internet searching that we've been doing is not nearly as environmentally friendly as we might think? Besides the enormous convenience of being able to communicate with people all over the world easily and quickly and to consult documents held in an immense number of locations, internet research has seemed to me to be an ecological good thing. Fewer trees cut down to print copies of articles and books, less travel on my part to do research, work done with no cost to anyone except my monthly internet server bill.

But that is apparently not the case, as an interesting exchange in recent New Yorkers suggests. Everything that goes on online requires electricity and most of the electricity is generated by coal in North America. This makes the internet's "energy and carbon footprints now probably (larger) than air as much as a factor of two, and they are growing faster than those of almost all other human activities," he told David Owen, author of an article "The Inventor's Dilemma."

Too high, Carrie Saxifrage says in a letter in this week's magazine. "...(D)riving the average car for one kilometre produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches." She makes it sound as if the statistic isn't surprising, and contends that airplane vapor trails are much worse.

Maybe. Probably even. But it's a good thing to be reminded that our high tech life styyle may have costs which aren't readily apparent.


Martin Langeland said...

So-o-o... Everything we do has consequences? Who knew. But the apparent remedy: Stop Googling ... stop communicating ... stop driving ... stop staying up past dark ... stop. stop. stop. Is not very helpful. Better might be to engage in major efforts to change to less consequential power sources. Too bad Big Oil and Big Coal don't think much of the idea. So, at least we can all feel guilty.

Mary Soderstrom said...

And to reorganize the way we live in other ways to cut down on reliance on fossil fuels--like denser city living, local provisioning, more fuel efficient housing etc.

Well, we can't give up, can we?