The top stories and articles in The Sunday Times of London, The Washington Post and The Australian all mention the physicist, Alex Wissner-Gross, and he posits that a single Google search generates 7g of CO2 versus 15g for a tea kettle. He calls it a "definite environmental impact." Other studies show books, cheeseburgers, and definitely cars emitting more than 350-500 times more CO2. Looks like Google is definitely on the low end of emissions; but with more than 200 million Google internet searches done daily, we should have a concern regarding the massive amounts of electrical energy required to power a user's computer and then send the request to multiple servers. Some articles feature Google as the bad guy with secrets and everytime anyone does a search they are contributing to the problem.
According to Google's response to both the Times and The Australian, a single search is actually only 0.2 g of CO2. A Google Australian spokesman stated, "They are trying to be in the forefront of green computing. We've committed to being carbon-neutral worldwide - that is, zero net emissions - for 2007 and beyond, by creating what we believe to be the most energy-efficient data centers in the world, using renewable energy sources and investing in high-quality carbon offset projects." This will be a tough job since everyone wants their search results faster and each search goes through more than one server. There are servers in the US, Europe, Japan, and China; each emitting CO2.
I agree with Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch.com that Google may actually be helping our environment in one way. Getting information through searches (takes just a few seconds) creates much less CO2 for the planet than getting in my car and driving somewhere, especially when I have to go to a second or third location to complete the task.
Even though we have the need for speed and want our information brought to us faster and faster, let's hope Google will continue to work on keeping the CO2 levels down to a minimum and stand behind their claim of being among the most efficient internet search providers. Please join me in making our world greener by "searching responsibly."