Tuesday, July 2, 2024

"So much for green Google - emissions rise 48% since 2019" (GOOG)

It would be less of a big deal if the GOOG didn't have this bit running at the bottom of the search page:

Our third decade of climate action: join us

From The Register, July 2:

Datacenters and AI blamed for the increase, even as Chocolate Factory bets on AI to fix it 

With six years left for Google to meet its 2030 "net zero" climate commitment, the web giant has admitted its carbon emissions are rising.

In an environmental report [PDF] published on Tuesday, Google admitted that its greenhouse gas emissions rose 48 percent since 2019. In 2023 alone, the search giant's carbon footprint topped 14.3 million tons of CO2 equivalents, up 13 percent from the prior year.

Chief sustainability officer Kate Brandt and SVP of learning and sustainability Benedict Gomes pinned the blame squarely on increased datacenter energy consumption.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering Google operates enormous datacenter fleets, and the sheer amount of compute required to train and deploy its growing library of AI models and services. Training the largest models often requires tens of thousands of accelerators running flat out for weeks, or even months. Everyday Google services like search also consume more power these days: it's estimated that an AI-powered query consumes ten times more energy than a standard search.

AI's impact on the environment wasn't lost on Brandt or Gomes, who spun it as a net positive. "We know that scaling AI and using it to accelerate climate action is just as crucial as addressing the environmental impact associated with it," Brandt and Gomes wrote in the report.

Google's argument is that AI development contributes to a larger carbon footprint, but the technology will offset more emissions elsewhere, such as by generating more efficient routes for automobiles and other ways to cut emissions....


Shades of John Kerry when, as Climate Czar jetting off to Iceland in his private plane to receive a climate change leadership award:

“If you offset your carbon, it’s the only choice for somebody like me
who is traveling the world to win this battle”

Roger that, only choice, over. 

One of the more telling stories about how tough this stuff is, from 2015:
And related, 2011:
Google is one of the largest energy users* in the world, so large that they are embarrassed to say how much electricity they consume.

The Goog will not build a data center in California because of the cost of electricity.
The company has made something on the order of $3/4 billion in clean/green/alt energy investments, some of it in decidedly staid technology. Here they appear to be forecasting breakthroughs.