Global Google

Shame on you. Every time you use Google, you are helping to destroy our planet. So says Alex Wissner-Gross, a no-good physicist from Harvard who is one of those annoying people who wants to take the fun out of everything. He has researched the carbon footprint of operating the Internet and now threatens to publish his results.

According to the Sunday Times,

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea

Another one of these blokes, Liam Newcombe of the British Computer Society, is all atwitter about the carbon cost of, you know, tweeting. The Times has Newcombe "warning" us that things like Twitter are not simply fun and hot air; they have a carbon cost.

If you’re like me, your first thought upon learning this was to wonder how long it takes Mr. Wissner-Gross to exhale as much carbon dioxide as it takes to boil a kettle for a cup of tea. Or alternatively, to atone for the Google search I used to find the answer. Which is “ten minutes.”

The Times does not say how seriously Mr. Wissner-Gross takes his research, or indeed whether he even cares if the planet bursts into flame. So I propose a test. I ask the professor to stop breathing for ten minutes every time I do a Google search. I will let him know by email each time his services are required (I recognize that sending him an email probably requires that we keep him breathless for another minute or two, but if he is serious about saving the planet he shouldn’t mind).