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Friday, July 10, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Down To Earth

CO2 emissions from the internet - A guest column

*Moderator's note* - The following post is a guest column written by one of our colleagues, and a fellow blogger, Brandon Hansen.  Brandon is a journalism graduate of Eastern Washington University, where he served as the editor-in-chief (DTE's editor-in-chief) of the student newspaper, The Easterner.  Currently a web consultant for a Spokane-based company, he also blogs in his free time at

CO2 emissions from the internet
by Brandon Hansen

You’re polluting the air right now.
If you got to this article through a Google Search than you emitted as much as seven grams of CO2.
And that’s just one search, imagine all the times you were searching for wet t-shirt contests (Might want to do a better job of refining your keywords).
Internet servers, which contain all that wonderful information that is the World Wide Web, are all over the place and they kick out plenty of heat and CO2.co2_emissions_main_small Think about that cranky five-year old computer that you have that has a fan louder than a 747 Jumbo Jet. Yeah… that’s basically what internet servers do since they’re constantly on, processing 24/7, and need to be cooled properly.
  Because really, when’s the last time the internet took a break? World of Warcraft players would be up in arms.
Now, I’m not one to point fingers at who’s kicking out all this pollution, because if they shut off the internet, I’d probably be huddled in a corner somewhere mumbling “lol, rotf and brb”.
The Internet Industry, if that’s what you want to call it, puts out about as much CO2 as aviations industry. That’s the guys with the birds that run off of jet fuel. And YouTube doesn’t serve peanuts.
What a drag.
And studies have shown that web servers in the United States account for 1.2 percent of the country’s electrical consumption, more than all our TV sets combined. However there has been a push to make more power efficient servers by companies.

There’s even carbon-free web hosting available, which has servers that are not powered by conventionally energy grids.
Google, which we mentioned earlier, is actually one of the leaders in trying to cut emissions and claims to be one of the most efficient Internet industry members. They also joined the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which aims to cut the emissions produced by computing in half by 2010, which would be equivelient to taking 11 million cars of the road.
Also when this story by the Times of London was released, Google had this response of their blog, saying that the initial estimate of 7 grams of CO was not right.  We thought it would be helpful to explain why this number is *many* times too high. Google is fast--a typical search returns results in less than 0.2 seconds. Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query, the servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a second. Together with other work performed before your search even starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ. For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.
You can read the full blog here.
So remember that the next you log in, because chances are, your search for that William Shatner replica ripped Captian Kirk shirt will make it into the environment somehow.

Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.