I was taken by the digibabble about an alarmist piece published by Times Online, centred on the observations of physicist Alex Wissner-Gross who suggests that a single Google search generates 7g of CO2, versus around 15g for a tea kettle. He also, as pointed out in a thoughtful piece in the Washington Post by Jason Kincaid, was the co-founder of CO2Stats, which sells software that will help you make your website 'greener'.
Personally, I think all forms of CO2 trading are deeply suspect and everytime I read about a new phase in its history I am again reminded of 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. Generally, is CO2 trading undertaken for profit? Yes. Does someone somewhere take 'commission' on the trades made? Yes. Does CO2 trading allow a quick fix rather than change behaviours? Yes.
But this company doesn't do CO2 trading and in fact is quite clear about what it does - and doesn't - do. In its FAQ it states:
It goes on to explain that they only from audited wind and solar farms and everything is all green and ethically lovely - but it is still a 'for profit' enterprise that will set you back between US$4.95 to US99.95. Obviously there is a sliding scale of green-ness and it would seem you can be 'a bit green' at $4.95 or 'super green' at just under $100.
This sort of programme seems very similar in nature to the convoluted 'financial products' dreamed up over recent years which have recently come crashing down to earth as stocks have fallen, trust undermined and promises left unfulfilled.
I think what we have here is a very clever use of mainstream media designed to prick the conscience of your average net user, driving them to the good physicist's site in order to prompt them into believing they should be buying this software if they want to stay green and clean. After all, why change your actual behaviour when $4.95 will see you right?
I don't often have much sympathy with Google, but in this case I feel they have been used to grab headlines which in turn are being used to drive traffic - the very thing the esteemed young scientist was supposedly warning against. Or maybe I missed something?
I don't doubt the statistics reproduced in the articles (which I believe were generated from his research) but I do find myself wondering about the transparency and motivation behind the piece. Attacking Google by combining some credible looking stats, the words 'green' and 'environment' plus a scientist's title and 'new research' and you have a sure-fire way of stirring up mainstream and online media conversation and driving traffic - not to mention the profits of a relatively new start up.