Monday, January 12, 2009

Everytime You Surf Pr0n, God Kills a Polar Bear

The extended forecast for Minnesota calls for HIGHs in the 0's. I'm beginning to see the upside of this whole phyrric global warming thing. I say it's time for another carbon belch to accelerate the accumulation of those warmth-generating greenhouse gasses. Here we go in 3...2...

There we go. Thirty-five more toasty grams of carbon just got blown into the atmosphere. And you can can multiply that number simply by clicking through the links above.

"What the hell is that nutball prattling on about now?" you ask? Prattling, indeed:

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, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

If a google search has an environmental impact, just imagine how much carbon this ThunderJournal has ejected into the atmosphere in our four year history. And you can probably double that amount if you count all the methane emanations that frequently serve as the topic of many of those posts.

Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern. A recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines - about 2% of global CO2 emissions. “Data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Banks of servers storing billions of web pages require power.

If a simple search engine query has an environmental impact, I'll bet the energy need to create, host upload and display (repeatedly) images ought to be enough to knock off a chunk of polar cap ice or two.

Though Google says it is in the forefront of green computing, its search engine generates high levels of CO2 because of the way it operates. When you type in a Google search for, say, “energy saving tips”, this:

your request doesn’t go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other.

It may even be sent to servers thousands of miles apart. Google’s infrastructure sends you data from whichever produces the answer fastest. The system minimises delays but raises energy consumption. Google has servers in the US, Europe, Japan and China.

Wow. You're better off driving your Hummer down to the library and doing your research on microfiche machines than googling.

Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has also set up a website [how much CO2 does a hyperlink emit? And what of this site itself? -ed.]. “Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,” he said.

Google said: “We are among the most efficient of all internet search providers.”

Wissner-Gross has also calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the internet. His research indicates that viewing a simple web page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second. This rises tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos

No worries here, dear readers. KAR is one of the most environmentally friendly ThunderJournals on the web. In fact, KAR is published on 87% post-consumer recycled pixels! No other online journal can make that claim!

Actually, I need to verify that last assertion. One moment please:

Yes, we can claim that. Suck it Times Online!

A separate estimate from John Buckley, managing director of [WARNING: visiting this website causes CO2 emissions! Avoid at all costs! -ed.], a British environmental consultancy, puts the CO2 emissions of a Google search at between 1g and 10g, depending on whether you have to start your PC or not.

I would image the number is significantly lower if you do your search before you boot up your computer. Science is easy!

Simply running a PC generates between 40g and 80g per hour, he says. of CO2 Chris Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, estimates the carbon emissions of a Google search at 7g to 10g (assuming 15 minutes’ computer use).

Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch, Rewiring the World, has calculated that maintaining a character (known as an avatar) in the Second Life virtual reality game, requires 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That is almost as much used by the average Brazilian.

In fairness to Second Life players, the environmental impact of maintaining an avatar is nothing compared to the number of dead batters they would otherwise be dumping into landfills. Those 3-speed vibrating vaginas don't run on wind power, you know.

And, I've always wondered how much energy the average Brazilian uses. Thanks to this awesome article, I now know.

Though energy consumption by computers is growing - and the rate of growth is increasing - Newcombe argues that what matters most is the type of usage.

Hang on a sec - I need to go on Twitter and let you folks know that I'm writing this post...


OK. Tweet done. Let's continue.

If your internet use is in place of more energy-intensive activities, such as driving your car to the shops, that’s good. But if it is adding activities and energy consumption that would not otherwise happen, that may pose problems.

You mean like this?

I think some perspective is needed here. Sure, computers and search engines need electricity. And yes, the generation of electricity gives off carbon gas. But still, that measly 7 grams per search in nothing compared to the roughly metric ton of methane that is currently being emitted into the environment because of that pot roast I ate last night.

But if they go after my pot roast, I may have to post a strongly-worded, hyperlink-intensive blog rant.

UPDATE: Here is a video of a guy lighting his farts:

I think that ties together this post quite nicely.

No comments: