Home » Google’s Emissions Surge Almost 50% in Five Years

Google’s Emissions Surge Almost 50% in Five Years

by Madaline Dunn

Google’s emissions have skyrocketed in the last five years, up almost 50 per cent, putting its 2030 net zero target in serious doubt.

The tech company’s annual environmental report, published this week, revealed that its total GHG emissions were 14.3 million tCO2 e last year, a 48 per cent increase compared to its 2019 target base year and up 13 per cent from 2022.

The culprit? According to Google, the sharp rise is primarily due to increases in data centre energy consumption and supply chain emissions.

The company, which has set the target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030, said that this “extremely ambitious” goal “won’t be easy.”

According to the company, setting itself on the path to reaching this 2030 goal will require it to navigate “significant uncertainty,” including that around the future environmental impact of AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hugely resource-intensive technology that is both energy—and water-hungry.

However, the use of AI is soaring, and at the beginning of its boom, it already uses as much energy as a small country. And, looking ahead, according to the International Energy Agency, by 2026, global data centre electricity use could double—this, it said, would bring electricity use to roughly the equivalent of Japan’s electricity consumption.

The report highlighted that a Google-owned and -operated data centre is, on average, approximately 1.8 times as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data centre. That said, last year, one study forecasted that a “worst-case scenario” could see Google AI systems alone consuming as much as Ireland.

It is also worth noting that there is variation in the energy sources used by Google’s data centres.

While it outlines that 64 per cent of its data centres and offices used carbon-free energy from 2022-2023, in places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the percentage of hourly match with carbon-free energy was at 0 per cent.

In a bid to clamp down on rising emissions, the report outlined a number of initiatives, including the launch of the Google Renewable Energy Addendum. The program asks its largest hardware manufacturing suppliers, based on spend, to commit to achieving a 100% renewable energy match by 2029. However, it’s clear the company has a challenging journey ahead.

The report outlined: “As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands from the greater intensity of AI compute, and the emissions associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment.”

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