Feeds

Forget Google rationing: Only lighting farts can save the planet

Green-IT maven ignores the true enemy within

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Analysis Assertions by a Harvard University environmentalist and green-website promoter that two Google searches cause carbon emissions equivalent to boiling a kettle appear to be based on questionable numbers. Building on the new research, the Reg can also exclusively reveal that three days of normal human farts cause the same amount of damage to the planet as a Google search. Google, however, say that a use of their search engine is only equivalent to farting once.

Alex Wissner-Gross, Environmental Fellow at Harvard University and CTO of co2stats.com ("makes your website carbon neutral") has made headlines round the world this weekend with his "two Googles = one kettle boil" calculation.

Wissner-Gross reckons a normal kettle boil results in 15 grams of CO2 emissions. Does that stand up?

Well, most people use a figure of 500 gCO2 per kilowatt-hour of electricity or thereabouts. (The UK wind industry recently agreed to come down to 460 after a row over misleading advertising, acknowledging that electricity is greener than its used to be, but we'll go with the nice round number.) Fifteen grams of CO2 is thus equivalent to 0.03 kilowatt-hours, enough to run a 2kw kettle for 54 seconds. That's a pretty fast boil - it would seem that Wissner-Gross' kettle isn't very full, or (shock) that he's massaging his figures as hard as he can to get a nice headline-grabbing number. Remember, Wissner-Gross' company is dependent on the idea that IT is a big environmental burden - he needs kettle energy consumption to be small here.

Actually, reliable old Which? reckon that boiling a kettle takes 0.103 to 0.12 kilowatt-hours. The right figure for a kettle boil, then, is between 50 and 60g of CO2. Let's be kind to Wissner-Gross and say 50.

The Harvard prof says that a Google search, meanwhile, uses energy equivalent to 7g of CO2 emissions. His research isn't yet published, so we'll just have to take that on trust - though Google dispute it vigorously.

So actually it isn't two Googles = one kettle boil, even by Wissner-Gross' own figures. It's at least seven, more likely eight+ Googles before you've caused the same carbon emissions as you would boiling a kettle.

Crikey, though - that's a lot of greenhouse gas, isn't it? Maybe we shouldn't use computers and IT so much. Or anyway, if we do, we should give Wissner-Gross some guilt money to green up our websites using his co2stats.com magic.

Or, more usefully, we could simply take to lighting our farts.

No, really. Farting and failing to burn off the resulting methane is incredibly environmentally irresponsible. The average person emits anywhere from half a litre to three litres of evil-smelling gas daily. Some of this is CO2, but we shouldn't blame ourselves there - the food we eat absorbs atmospheric carbon as it grows, we are effectively biofuelled and we can ignore that.

But, thanks to our intestinal bacteria, many of us also emit carbon in the form of methane, which is a vastly more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 - 25 times as bad for the planet, in fact. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "up to ten per cent" of human intestinal gas is methane. Assuming five per cent, and a middle-of the-road 2l of daily bottomnal emissions, we are each putting out a cool (well, warm) 0.07 grams of CH4 every day. That has the same planet-busting effect as emitting about 2g of CO2, and it's not compensated for by our biofuelled food chain.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.