Google: New functions make climate protection clickable
If you search for something on the Internet, you will use Google in most cases. It is the most widely used search engine on the Internet worldwide. The Internet company’s market share is almost 90 percent. Billions of people – you can hardly find exact access numbers – use Google every day. The internet giant has a huge impact on what people see on the internet. And often what they buy too. With the widely used navigation tool Google Maps, the company influences where people move around. Now, Alphabet Inc., which owns Google, claims to have set a goal of helping one billion people make more sustainable choices by 2022. The Internet giant launched new functions today for this purpose.
More environmentally conscious in air and private transport
If users search for flights on Google, the search engine now shows the associated CO2 emissions directly. Flights that cause the lowest emissions in comparison are given a green mark. In addition, a distinction is made between seats in the economy class and seats in the more expensive business class, as these take up more space and are therefore assigned a larger share of the emissions. Google uses airline data for calculations. However, the innovation does not ensure that air travelers tend to choose the lower-emission flight. After all, most travelers want one thing above all: to travel quickly and cheaply.
Getting to your destination quickly and cheaply is what drivers want too. In cities, in particular, people and the environment suffer from traffic jams and long journey times. If you don’t get on a bike or use public transport, you can at least make your car trips more environmentally friendly with Google Maps. As already announced in spring, the online map service Google Maps shows users inside the USA the most environmentally friendly route for driving as of today. The function is not expected for Europe until next year.
With the help of artificial intelligence, the application determines the route with the lowest fuel consumption. The system focuses on criteria such as speed limits, possible traffic jams, or road inclination. Users can also see how high the emissions are in comparison between different routes. As with booking a flight, the following applies: Most of the time, drivers want to get to their destination quickly, and not necessarily in the most environmentally friendly way. It, therefore, remains to be seen whether they will choose the latter.
Google itself is an enormous emitter of CO2
By integrating the topic of sustainability more strongly in its services, the billions of users can be made more aware of it. But with its huge server farms and data centers, Google itself causes enormous greenhouse gas emissions that heat up the climate. In 2019 alone, Alphabet Inc. emitted over 12.5 million tons of CO2 equivalents. According to the company, all of these emissions have been offset through compensation projects. However, their effectiveness is often viewed with skepticism. According to Google, it would like to further reduce its own emissions in the future: By 2030, the data centers and locations should run 24 hours a day with CO2-free energy.
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In order to green not only itself but also cities, Google has already developed some applications. The company has set up the Tree Canopy Lab, for example, in which satellite images are evaluated using artificial intelligence. With the help of satellite images and intelligent software, the tree population of a city is to be analyzed on the one hand and places for new plantings to be identified on the other. So far, however, this function is still at the very beginning. Los Angeles is now the first city that Google wants to help plant more trees.
Further functions in planning
The new functions for air and private transport are just two of many that Google rolled out last year. A similar function to that of flights has already been implemented for hotels: When searching, it is made visible when a hotel has taken measures to operate more sustainably. If a hotel is certified by organizations such as Earth Check or Green Key, it receives a special label in the search results. The finance area has also been revised. When searching for a company, users not only receive information about its share price but also evaluations in terms of sustainability. The search engine receives the data for this from the Carbon Disclosure Project(CDP), a non-profit organization with the aim of making environmental data from companies and municipalities, such as their climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions, accessible to the public.
Further functions are currently still being planned, according to the group. Google wants to make cycling easier for cyclists in the coming months. With the so-called “Lite Navigation”, cyclists should be shown details of their route in a brief overview without being constantly distracted by their screen while driving. In addition, Google plans to use artificial intelligence to optimize the efficiency of traffic lights so that they react more dynamically to traffic conditions. According to Google, the first pilot projects have already been carried out in Israel, and more are planned in Rio de Janeiro.