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IF YOU want to contribute to saving the planet from carbon dioxide carnage, cut down on your Google searches, international scientists have warned. 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, The Australian reports. While millions of people tap into Google without a thought for 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." Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its dozens of data centres. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally every day, the level of 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 per cent 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 both to run and cool them. 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", 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. Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has also set up a website www.CO2stats.com. "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 website page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second. This rises about tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos.
More has emerged on the news reported by respected Times newspaper about the environmental impact of each web search performed using Google's website which claimed that 7 tonnes of CO2 are produced per million searches. In a short statement with Technewsworld, Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross said that he never mentioned Google in the interview he gave to the Sunday Times of London. Alex Wissner-Gross went further claiming that "For some reason, in their story on the study, the Times had an ax to grind with Google" adding that "Our work has nothing to do with Google". Instead, Wissner-Gross went on to say that the focus of his work is exclusively on the overall environmental foot print of web usage (rather than specific sites) and they found out that each web visit generates 72g of CO2 per hour. Wissner-Gross dismissed reports that he knew anything about the reference to the Kettle data. Google has already responded to the claims saying that on average, one search generated 0.2g of CO2.