Google or Tea? Introducing the Carbon:Value Ratio

Outside World by scr47chy on flickr
"Outside World" by scr47chy on flickr

I’m not even sure this is worth blogging it seems so obvious.

I guess the thing that crystallised this concept in my mind was that whole two-Google-searches-is-the-energy-equivalent-of-boiling-a-kettle nonsense, precipitated by a journalist from The Times doing some bad research and choosing a sensationalist headline which ensured that the story did the rounds for weeks online. Apart from the whole misleading aspect of the story, it made me think about the value of doing a Google search.

What’s easy to take for granted is the speed and power of the web in general, and search engines in particular. The web represents a pretty good approximation of the sum total of public human knowledge (with continual updating), and search engines make that information and knowledge accessible in a fraction of a second. That’s really profound. What is the value of that? Of course there is a carbon footprint involved. But what about the carbon footprint of the alternative? Going to the library and searching for hours for information? Never finding it? How much carbon is saved by saving people time?