Google, it seems, is quite the environmental bad seed, or the venerable folk at The Times seem to think so anyway.
Employing a blend of the dreaded 'research' and some basic mathematics, The Times tells us that performing two Google searches a day creates as much carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle.
Our own blend of the equally dreaded 'statistics' and the very same basic maths tells us that 400 million Google searches a day (thanks Wiki) thus means 200 million boiled kettles. That's a lot of cups of tea for us to consume while we sit with furrowed brow contemplating the state of our planet. And a pretty hefty electricity bill too.
On the boil
Unfortunately for The Times, and in good news for tea-drinkers everywhere, it seems that only boiling a kettle actually does generate the same amount of CO2 as boiling a kettle.
The scientist quoted by the paper, Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, has said he never mentioned Google specifically, and that the research was focused on the web in general. Its findings were that it takes on average 20mg of CO2 per second to visit a website. That includes The Times' website. And this one.
Where's the quote?
The Times' mistake was simple. The story's sub-head reads: "Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross says that performing two Google searches uses up as much energy as boiling the kettle for a cup of tea". Read the story, however, and there isn't a single place where he is quoted as saying any such thing. And in the world of science, unlike that of journalism, getting facts exactly correct does matter.
The worst part is that the real issue here has been buried like an abandoned fridge in a landfill. And that's the fact that while the internet may seem like an invisible, abstract network of connectivity permanently on the tips of our fingers, every single action we perform online is made possible by physical technology that all requires power to run.
And no matter how many Energy Star stickers are on your monitors, or 'greener' lightbulbs we're forced to buy by the supermarkets, we're not taking this responsibility very seriously.
It's all quite depressing, really. I need a cup of tea...