Carbon researcher never mentioned Google

Claims that two searches on Google create as much carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle have been rubbished by the scientist whose report is being quoted as the evidence.

Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross told TechNewsWorld that he never mentioned Google in the study, and that the Times was misleading readers.

He said: "Our work has nothing to do with Google. Our focus was exclusively on the web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a website."

Wissner-Gross said that the example used about tea kettles was made by Times journalists, as that claim was not in his report.

The article also claimed that one of the journalists involved in the Times story had interviewed a Google engineer, but didn't use anything of what he said.

However, the scientist did say that Google searches had a definite environmental impact, and that the company operated huge data centres which consumed a great deal of power.

He said: "I don't think that anybody would disagree with those statements. Everything online has a definite environmental impact. I think everybody can agree on that, including Google."

Google has already responded to the researcher's findings in a blog post, and said it was making efforts to tackle the problem by building more energy efficient data centres.

Dr Steve Hodgkinson, research director at analyst firm Ovum, said that more efficient data centres were needed to run the internet, especially as more and more people continue to log on and traffic growth continues at 50 per cent a year.

"This growth scenario is starting to attract attention in terms of the energy inputs and outputs of the massive data centres that power the Internet," Hodgkinson said in a statement. "The simple, and apparently benign, act of initiating an online search, updating a blog or chatting on a social network inevitably causes servers to heat up a little bit more in a data centre somewhere and a power station to spew out more CO2 to generate the electricity."

"However, stifling demand for the Internet should not be seen as a solution to Internet data centre energy consumption until we have made more progress on at least three areas of supply-side energy efficiency," he added.