Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist has wrote a study on the environmental impact of computing. The study got cited widely in main stream media, including the BBC and Times-Online as well. The study claims that a typical Google search generates about 7g of CO2, and the global IT industry generates as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines - about 2% of global CO2 emissions.
I have a serious fundamental problem with this study: it directs the blame in completely the wrong direction. Using computers or electricity for any purpose does NOT generate CO2 emissions! The sad fact that most of our electricity is currently generated by burning fossil fuels (e.g. coal) is the real problem not how we use the electricity or for what purpose. Unworkable cover-up ideas (clean coal) presented with publicity stunts don’t help either. There are working clean alternatives: solar, wind and hydro power plants, so electricity can be produced without CO2 emission, therefore the use of electricity and computers has ZERO carbon footprint. On the other hand, the world’s airlines burn fossil fuels directly, so comparing the IT industry to them for environmental impact is vastly unfair until the airlines switch over to use electric engines exclusively.