Google, Harvard's Wissner-Gross debate CO2 from Web Search

DN Staff

January 22, 2009

1 Min Read
Google, Harvard's Wissner-Gross debate CO2 from Web Search

Harvard graduate student Alex Wissner-Gross created quite a stir with his claim that every web search creates between 5-10 grams of CO2 from the power required to keep those massive server farms going. Google officials apparently thought he was singling it out, but he later said he was speaking about generally about web searches and had no axe to grind with Google.But who does not equate web search with the king of search, Google? And in a Timesonline article, he points the finger directly at Google.

“We have calculated that each Google search generates an estimated 5-10 g of CO2, in part because Google’s unique infrastructure replicates queries across multiple servers, which then compete to provide the fastest answer to your query,” he wrote on Jan. 11.

No matter who he was talking about, Wissner-Gross managed to ignite the discussion about how green the web isn’t. Google refuted Wissner-Gross’ findings in its blog, claiming a search produces about .02 grams and consumes a mere 0.0003 kWh of electricity. Coverage of the debate has been widespread.

Wissner-Gross, who the a Google blog post referred to as a “professor,”appears to be a graduate student and has promised to send Google his detailed research. Other articles refer to him as a researcher, physicist and Fellow.

So remember this next time when you’re searching. My dozen searches for this blog post means I either caused a CO2 release of 2.4 grams or 120 grams, depending on who you believe (my tendency is toward the independent source, not that he is incapable of a mistake). It’s an interesting debate with the flagging economy weighing on everyone’s mind.

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