Stop checking the facts: "Your Internet search has just helped kill the planet"

Guest post by Alec Rawls

This could explain a few things. Greens are against searching for information. To save the planet, only follow safe links from Joe Romm, Andrew Revkin, John Cook and RealClimate. Searching bad. Vewwy vewwy bad:

coal plant

It is old and busted of course, but like everything else from the anti-carbon left, it refuses to die, and just goes on eating their brains.

Anti-Googling reporter used Google to better mislead his audience


Last year the UK Times ran a Google-CO2 scare story that it had to update with a major correction. They had claimed that “a typical search generates about 7g of CO2.”

Actually, responded Google, that’s 35 times too high: “In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2.”

The Times excuse was that they:

were referring to a Google search that may involve several attempts to find the object being sought and that may last for several minutes. Various experts put forward carbon emission estimates for such a search of 1g-10g depending on the time involved and the equipment used.

Yeah, if you actually research a subject, you might cram in the 35 searches necessary to reach 7 grams, except that the Times had gone on to say that its 7 gram figure needed to be multiplied by the “more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily.” Such statistics don’t count search sessions, they count individual searches. Excuse fail.

Alex Rosin, who wrote the latest anti-web-search article, must have Googled The Times‘ correction. He refers to their same 1 to 10 grams per-search figure, but notes up-front that he is talking about search sessions:

Depending on how long you took and what sites you visited, your search caused the emission of one to 10 grams of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

Like The Times, however, Rosin multiplies this grams per search-session figure up by the number of individual searches:

Sure, it’s not a lot on its own — but add up all of the more than one billion daily Google searches, throw in 60 million Facebook status updates each day, 50 million daily tweets and 250 billion emails per day, and you’re making a serious dent in some Greenland glaciers.

About these global warming scare-claims that Rosen keeps tacking on

Turns out there is another item Rosin is omitting too. When Google issued its response to The Times, it was careful to put all of these grams-per-search figures into context by comparing them to other CO2-releasing activities:

The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don’t reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.

In other words:

a typical individual’s Google use for an entire year would produce about the same amount of CO2 as just a single load of washing.

Neither The Times nor Rosin sees fit to provide this relative-magnitude information to their readers. And don’t Google it either folks! That would be an eco-sin.

Priced on the greenies own terms, internet use is an infinitesimal concern

The Chicago Climate Exchange carbon market collapsed last fall, dropping from a hey-day price of $7.40/ton to less than a nickle per ton, but for argument’s sake, suppose an eco-pipe-dream tax on CO2 of $100/ton. (The actual external cost is zero or negative, because CO2 does more good than harm, but let’s calculate on their terms.)

There are 907,184 grams in a ton. Divided by the 10,000 pennies in $100, that’s 90.7 grams per penny to fully internalize the (far exaggerated) external costs of CO2. If a supersized Google session produces 10 grams of CO2, that’s 9 actual Google research sessions for a penny’s worth of way-overpriced carbon offsets, not enough to rationally enter into the calculations of even the greenest greenie.

So why are they being so irrational about this? Why all the hating on searching for information? It could just be innumeracy, which is of a piece with their buying into anti-CO2 alarmism in the first place. But maybe they really are trying to stop their minions from checking the facts for themselves.

That would actually make sense from their point of view, and why else would they omit the figures that put the energy costs of online searches into perspective? It seems that the eco-religionists really are trying to minimize Google searching, just as they want to drastically reduce car driving, plastic bag use, and butt wiping. Avoidance of information search has apparently been added to their list of eco-sacraments.

(Hat tip to the indefatigable Tom Nelson.)

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June 6, 2011 8:46 pm

Another great article by the inimitable Alec Rawls, who I greatly admire. It should also be pointed out that there is no empirical evidence that CO2 [“carbon” to the illitteri] causes global warming. It might… but before taking any action, we should have solid, falsifiable evidence, no?

June 6, 2011 8:56 pm

“Carbon counters” make me angry. These sick little people with nothing better to do than put a CO2 quantity on every single little thing that people do to try and make them feel guilty about absolutely everything. It is totally pathetic.

Rick Bradford
June 6, 2011 8:59 pm

Trying to figure out their motives is probably a waste of time — the Green/Left mindset has nothing to do with reality and is all about “winning”.

June 6, 2011 9:00 pm

“When you hold the mail, you hold information”

Dave N
June 6, 2011 9:04 pm

I don’t mind them doing that as long as they publish (and accurately) what their counters show. If they did, I’m sure they’d soon stop doing it.

June 6, 2011 9:10 pm

We’ll just rely on Mr Holdren for all facts. What lies would a Malthus-nut-job like him tell anyway?

June 6, 2011 9:10 pm

It seems that the eco-religionists really are trying to minimize Google Global searching…. [modified]
Yes, they are admitting that Global Searching is a threat to “Global Warming”. Cue the Obama Administration’s, ~”We don’t need no stinking facts, so neither should you!”

June 6, 2011 9:14 pm

Al Gore has some money invested in Google, hasn’t he? Therefore each search makes Al money. Therefore it is OK. Just like his jet, his shorefront property, his lovely houses….
However using a search engine other than Google is a different matter…

Andy G55
June 6, 2011 9:25 pm

Good, I’m going to do search after search after search, the Earth needs MORE CO2 in the atmosphere.. Its all been buried for way too long.

June 6, 2011 9:28 pm

And they posted this on the internets……… beautiful.
Alex, you first. Get off the internets, you’re using up all of our allotted CO2. Move on.

June 6, 2011 9:30 pm

Did I take a wrong turn in Albuquerque and end up in wacko world?

June 6, 2011 9:38 pm

If such people are so worried about such small quantities of CO2, they should stop breathing and reduce CO2 production by about a whole kilogram per day.

Donald Mitchell
June 6, 2011 9:41 pm

It would also help if units were kept consistent. I believe the article being referenced spoke in terms of grams of carbon. The responses referred to gram of CO2. Since 1 gram of carbon is contained in 3 2/3 grams CO2, you did not properly point out just how wrong the author of the referenced article actually is. It might have even had an educational effect for those who do not appear to know the difference if you had explained why the Google numbers were not even in the same units and one of them had to be adjusted before comparisons could be made. Of course, the article that I saw was in the Vancouver Sun (in an article copyrighted by the Montreal Gazette). I could not find any justification of the validity of those numbers. I doubt that the author really cares about accuracy.

June 6, 2011 9:44 pm

Searching and blogging and texting, Oh, my!
Searching and blogging and texting, Oh, my!
Searching and blogging and texting, Oh, my!
“I’ll get you, Denier, and your little dog too!”
Ruh-roh…Google Warming.
There: I’m all better now.

June 6, 2011 9:56 pm

Why not instead look at the CO2 cost of just existing. Assuming a 2000 kcal/day requirement for a small individual, this works out to 500 gm of glucose (4 kcal/gm). The net result of metabolizing this glucose is 733 gm of CO2. So, just sitting around doing nothing produces 0.51 gm of CO2/minute.
Rather than doing a google search, lets assume that this small individual would instead walk to the local library which is 15 minutes away. Let’s also assume that their metabolic rate will be doubled during the walk. Thus, the CO2 “cost” of their walk in gm of CO2 would be 15.3 + 0.51*. Assuming 10 minutes to look something up, a conventional library search would result in 20.4 gm of CO2 being produced. Calculating the CO2 cost of driving to the library is left as an exercise to the reader.
Even if we take the ludicrous 7 gm of CO2/Google search figure, computer search engines are almost 3x more efficient than manual searches. The only time that CO2 production figures are relevant are if one happens to be residing in an enclosed space such as a submarine where it is important to know how much O2 the crew are using per unit time and how much CO2 they’re exhaling. In the earth’s atmosphere, such CO2 production figures are irrelevant since plants take up all of the CO2 produced.

June 6, 2011 9:58 pm

Seems that the equation didn’t get through fully:
15.3 + 0.51 x search_time_in_minutes

June 6, 2011 10:01 pm

The ‘putting things into perspective’ tactic reminds me of Bruces Ames’ expressing the cancer danger of various chemicals in terms of grams of peanut butter.
All peanut butter contains some aflatoxin, which is a powerful carcinogen. Peanut butter fails the Ames test for cancer, and would probably be banned by the FDA if it were used as a plasticizer in baby bottle plastic.
So, expressing a chemical’s potential for cancer induction in terms of ‘peanut butter units’ rapidly brings the danger into perspective, just as does the equation of CO2 from Googe use in terms of laundry loads.
And, just as is the case with AGW folks disliking a perspective on CO2 production offered by in terms of doing laundry, there are lots of people who resent having their favorite boogieman — toxic chemicals — equated to teaspoons of peanut butter.

Zeke the Sneak
June 6, 2011 10:20 pm

Well at least IIIII am not the one looking for questionabledark matter using teraflops equal to one trillion floating-point operations per second; or saying I will develop a quantum computer (twenty years from now), or asking for a bigger twitter machine for climate quacks.

Rhys Jaggar
June 6, 2011 10:48 pm

Look, every single thing a human being does creates carbon dioxide.
Taken to extremis:
1. No sex – increases heart rate and respiration rate. INCREASES CARBON DIOXIDE. Stop it!!!!
2. Cooking food – uses carbon dioxide either in gas or electricity generation or, if you’re a primitive, burning wood. RETURN TO NATURE AND EAT RAW MEAT!!
3. Washing your hands after having a dump – all that clean water you used to wash yourself – that used up energy in the water treatment plants. WALK DOWN TO THE LOCAL RIVER TO WASH THOSE MITTS, PLEASE!!
4. Playing golf – for chrissakes, you cannot be serious. Making golf clubs uses up humungous amounts of energy, not to mention all that water used to keep the greens OK and the fuel used to power the motorised grass cutters. BAN GOLF!!
In fact, ban anything except photosynthesis!
Oops, we just scripted our species off the planet………..

Christopher Torgersen
June 6, 2011 10:56 pm

Aren’t there 1 million grams in a ton? Don’t mix your Imperial system with the much superior Metric system 🙂

June 6, 2011 11:19 pm

The average human exhales ~ 1Kg of CO2 a day. As happens quite often, I hold my breath while googling, awaiting the thrill of the searching experience to culminate. I don’t remember reading about this negative feedback effect. Has it been taken into account in the google carbon models?
If I have a soda while googling, well then all bets are off.

June 7, 2011 1:11 am

I’m convinced. I am switching to Bing searches immediately!

charles nelson
June 7, 2011 1:41 am

They are particularly against flying because those in flight displays keep telling us the awful truth…that the temperature at 2900o feet ranges from anwhere between -30 to -85 degrees C…and it only gets colder the higher you go.
So that ‘turbulence’ you sometimes experience is the earth’s natural thermostat at work…there’s plenty of cold stuff up there…they just don’t want us to know about it!

John Marshall
June 7, 2011 2:51 am

Smoke and mirrors. The alarmists can believe what they like the trouble is they keep involving us.

June 7, 2011 4:45 am

Once again, what doesn’t cause global warming?
Every year I think “humans can’t get any more stupider” and then something like this comes along and proves me wrong.

Bruce Cobb
June 7, 2011 4:47 am

This appears to be more of an attack on Google (how ironic), in favor of alternative “green” internet, than on internet use itself.
Bill St. Arnaud – engineer and green IT consultant in Ottawa says:
“We have to move from this fossil fuel fiesta to a smarter economy.”
From the Vancouver Sun: Some seeking to reduce the Internet’s carbon footprint point to a homegrown solution: the GreenStar Network.
GreenStar, which is based at Montreal’s ETS, is an alternative Internet that runs on small data centres powered solely by cleaner renewable energy, like wind, solar and hydroelectric power.
GreenStar is growing quickly because of the huge worldwide demand for green IT, St. Arnaud said. Since being launched last fall with a core of five green data centres in Canada, the network has expanded to include 15 other data centres in Europe and the U.S., mostly at universities and a few small industrial partners. Others are planned for China and Africa.
“Our biggest problem is meeting demand. We’ve demonstrated that we can build an Internet that’s as reliable as the normal Internet, but without using dirty energy,” St. Arnaud said.
The province says the market for green IT will be worth $600 billion annually worldwide by 2013.

So the question is, how soon will it be before Google gobbles Greenstar?

June 7, 2011 5:07 am

Of course the hippies don’t wont to shout about evil google these days, google went over to the screamers side. :p
But of course google is just one search engine, and I believe they are amongst the least used by the Chinese, Russians and the rest in the non native english speaking world.
In France, with all their nuclear power plants, a google search wouldn’t use as much as .2 gr but in Germany, with all their coal fired power plants, OMFG! :p

June 7, 2011 5:29 am

I don’t accept the expression of any activity in “quantity of CO2” produced. It legitimizes the green-wacko argument. Look what has happened because CO2 has been labeled a pollutant. The EPA wants to run wild regulating CO2; the UN and ALL governments think they’ve found the holy grail of taxation—-charge everyone a fee to oxidize already heavily taxed hydrocarbons. Even they realize no hydrocarbon can be oxidized without producing CO2, so why not tax it!
This type of CAGW hype is all the green religion has to make people feel they’re destroying the planet.

M D Bergeron
June 7, 2011 5:41 am

Does anyone else feel the desire to set up a bot to run google searches 24/7 for a year to actually reach numbers that they worry about.

June 7, 2011 6:01 am

This could explain a few things. Greens are against searching for information. To save the planet, only follow safe links from Joe Romm, Andrew Revkin, John Cook and RealClimate. Searching bad.
I wouldn’t put this past them given that they are also trying to ‘fix’ google climate searches to point us to the ‘correct’ sites:

June 7, 2011 6:36 am

How about also including the numbers for CO2 produced for a single simulation run of a climate model …

June 7, 2011 8:02 am

Social Engineering – The Google Way
I just installed a new operating system on my computer [Debian Squeeze] and had to reinstall my homepage on my browser. That would be my blog of course. I could have typed the URL directly into the address bar, but I did a Google search for my blog instead. There are many non-climate related posts that have had more comments and much more traffic, including posts linked to Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, or Althouse… but Google didn’t display those pages. The search engine singled out three of four post that contains the words “Climate”, “Global Warming”, “Fix” and “Hottest Year”!
Interesting to see what is important to the folks at Google.

Patrick Davis
June 7, 2011 9:09 am

Fahrenheit 451. 1984. Animal Farm. Hide the (decline) truth.

June 7, 2011 10:45 am

Even the 0.2g estimate is questionable. Can anyone explain how these numbers are derived? Even without any searches, the network has to maintain a minimum power level. How much power can one search take? Perhaps the number is derived from web crawling efforts? If so the crawling must precede any search. It could be argued that if no searches were done, then all of that expended power would be pure waste. What exactly was the point of the article anyway?
I wonder if anyone at the Times sees the irony in a newspaper, which consumes trees, power and even uses the web to maintain its existence, publishing articles against all of those.

June 7, 2011 11:21 am

@patrick davis
You forgot Atlas Shrugged

Jack Simmons
June 7, 2011 3:59 pm

Pat Frank says:
June 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm

The ‘putting things into perspective’ tactic reminds me of Bruces Ames’ expressing the cancer danger of various chemicals in terms of grams of peanut butter.
All peanut butter contains some aflatoxin, which is a powerful carcinogen. Peanut butter fails the Ames test for cancer, and would probably be banned by the FDA if it were used as a plasticizer in baby bottle plastic.

Please don’t give the FDA any ideas. My wife loves peanut butter and would be really put out if she couldn’t indulge.

June 7, 2011 7:58 pm

Oh Lord, save me from such lunacy!

June 8, 2011 11:47 am

So the conclusion is that informed people kill the planet while the dumbed down keep it safe?? Wow! Now that’s the best shortcut to shut down the internet for good…

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