We’ve only got 3 Clicks to Save the World

David Bindloss
May 11, 2018 · 6 min read

Madonna said it before me, but lets go a little deeper.

Alright, now that we have the grabby sensationalist title out of the way, lets talk about a few things before I get into the meat of this accusatory sandwich.

First of all, lets list a few things that are true:

  • In the year 2014, we (humans) output 9.795 Gt (thats gigatonne) of carbon emissions. To put that into perspective, that’s equivalent in size to a cube of water 9.7Km long on each side. Or another way, a cube taller than Mt Everest by around 1Km. Or another way, lots, a whole lot.
  • Temperatures globally are doing some pretty funky stuff. I think now that an apt point to make is that the term global-warming doesn’t mean “Everywhere is getting hotter”. It’s the term given to the effect that excess greenhouse gasses have on our atmosphere, translating into more wild weather patterns for down on the ground.
  • Google are well on track to beat their “searches made through Google statistic by a sizeable margin. Last year the search engine giant recorded around 1.2 trillion searches, and at the time of writing this article, they have already completed around 700 billion.
  • While there are other search engines that are capable of producing some pretty amazing numbers, Google certainly has the pacman of the pie chart.
Wokka wokka wokka
  • Since the start of the year there has been 11,242,989 seconds, no, 11,242,990, wait 11,242,991. Lets call it 11,250,000.
// number of google searches so far this year (2018)
var gSearchesThisYear = 755229703706;

O.K. bear with me while I pull these two vastly different strains of thought together.


Lets to some quik maffs

You should see something like this:

aesthetic

Cool, take special note of the value down in the bottom left of the network tab 441Kb. Type a search in, preferably not too lude.

509Kb

Take note of that amount as well. 509Kb.

Right. Let’s take those two numbers and add them:

441 + 509 = 950Kb

So — for every Google request that gets fired off, you can expect to pull around 1MB of data (uncached). Now, for the more learned of you throwing things at your monitor as you read, you’ve probably noticed I have ‘disable cache’ checked in these screen shots. But…

expires: -1, cache-control: private, max-age=0

Of the data that loads during a request, the html is set to not cache in your browser, which stands to reason — google doodles are updated semi-regularly.

Even with caching turned on in my browser, the numbers aren’t a whole lot better. I would conservatively say that on average you could expect around 500Kb down the pipe when you hit the Google Home Page and send a query.

The numbers for mobile are fairly similar clocking in at around 600Kb per page load.

Math:

// Searches per second
var sPerSecond = 67131;
var kbPerPageLoad = 500;

Now, that probably doesn’t seem like much, but enhance:

console.log(33.56 * 60);
// 2013.6 gb p/min || 2.0136 tb p/min
console.log(2.0136 * 60);
// 120.816 tb p/hour
console.log(120.816 * 24);
// 2899.584 tb p/day || 2.899584 pb p/day
// 1, 2, skip a few

On loading Google.com.

Can we confirm this?

Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average (visualize them here), which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. The chart below shows the number of searches per year throughout Google’s history

(source internetlivestats.com) — last recording of data was 2012.

While we are calculating the growth rate here, it is quoted as being

Google search continued to grow at rates of between 40% to 60% between 2001 and 2009, when it started to slow down stabilizing at a 10% to 15% rate in recent years.

(source internetlivestats.com) — last recording of data was 2012.

// projected % growth 2012 -> 2018
12.5 * 6 = 75%

So in fact, we’re actually being a little conservative (but not much.)

Right — lets move on:

Going back to old faithful internetlivestats.com we can also learn some pretty interesting meta information about the use of the internet.

The ones that we want to focus on are Internet Traffic, MWh & CO2 emissions (I told you I could wrap this all together).

At the time of writing (05/11/2018 || 11/05/2018). It’s May, the 11th… Yeah? We have transferred 640,163,058,116 gb of data over the internet. Consumed 475,423,384 MWh of power and emitted 406,819,087 tonnes of CO2 just from using the internet.

As a small note here, I imagine that the numbers for power consumption and CO2 are inclusive of auxiliary industries which help make the internet work.

Pulling the information from way at the top of this article:

9.795 Gt = 9795000000 tonnes of CO2 emitted in 2014

Giving ourselves the license of having that usage most recently.

9795000000 / 406819087 = 24.0770414%

… Yeah. 25%. A quarter of the emissions were in some way related to making the internet machine chug along.

So? What does Google have to do with all this?

Well, this is where it gets interesting.

Head over to Google again. Open up your Developer Tools, find the Settings Tab, and Disable Javascript.

On the right, under Debugger.

Now reload the page.

Delicious…

Right, well, that’s interesting. 4 requests and 63.6Kb (cached) transferred. And when we search?

Oh yeah, do it, you dirty browser.

500 / 118.4 = 76.32% reduction in load size. Did you notice anything else different? In fact, if you close the tools window and refresh the page, could your elderly grandmother / mother / sibling / neighbour tell you that anything was different to the normal Google website?

If we scale that up:

1058 - (1058 * .7632) = 250 pb p/year

All of this seems pretty superfluous when you think about the fact that we are set to transfer 1794 eb of data this calendar year, which translates to Google contributing around 1 of those exabytes, or 0.6% of overall internet usage — it still translates to 68,423,715 tonnes less CO2 in being emitted.

What would that saving mean?

Well — it’s pretty interesting.

  • The same volume of CO2 emissions could power 7,388,372 homes for a year.
  • That amount of emissions would need 80,593,304 acres of forest to mop up.

But perhaps the most important thing about this is that

You can actually do something to help.

It’s three clicks. Seriously. And you don’t lose out for user experience without Javascript, everything works pretty much the same (you don’t get autocomplete, but Google pretty much knows what you mean before you say it.)

I don’t see what’s NOT to like about this —I click three things and I can directly contribute in some small way to helping our cancerous planet.

Please note, I am not a smart man, if you have found an error in any of what you’ve just read, throw a comment my way

David Bindloss

Written by

Hi! I’m David — I’m a full stack web developer, python programmer, instructor and freelance consultant. I like to write about all things programming!