A better web. Better for the environment.
Carbon offsets at Google
(Cross-posted from the
Official Google Blog
to bring you information on other green efforts at Google)
As leaders from around the world meet in Copenhagen to address global climate change this month, we thought it was a good time to reflect on our own carbon footprint. In 2007, we committed to become a
carbon neutral company
. We know that it isn't possible to write a check and eliminate the environmental impact of our operations. So what does “carbon neutrality” mean to us?
First, we aggressively pursue reductions in our energy consumption through energy efficiency, innovative infrastructure design and operations and
on-site renewable energy
. Our Google designed data centers use
half the energy
of typical facilities. We're also working to accelerate the development of economic, clean renewable energy at scale through research and development, investment and policy outreach. At this time, however, such efforts don't cover our entire carbon footprint. Therefore, since 2007 we've gone a step further and made a voluntary commitment to buy carbon offsets to cover the portion of our footprint that we cannot yet eliminate — which is what we mean by "carbon neutrality."
So what exactly is a carbon offset? The idea behind an offset is that we pay someone to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a specific, measurable way, thus offseting an equal climate impact on our side. To determine our impact, we calculate our annual carbon footprint, which is then verified by an independent third party. We include direct energy consumption (like natural gas) and electricity use, employee commuting, company vehicle use, business travel and estimates of carbon emissions from building construction and from the manufacturing of servers used in our datacenters. We then buy an equivalent number of carbon offsets.
While carbon offsets seem simple in principle, in practice they are surprisingly complicated. In particular, it's often difficult to say whether or not the offset project results in emissions reductions that would have happened anyway. We find ourselves asking whether the project in fact goes beyond "business as usual." In the world of offsets, this concept is referred to as "
." Carbon offsets have a mixed reputation because some projects are not additional. Here at Google, we have set a very high bar to ensure that our investment makes an actual difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing offsets that are real, verifiable, permanent and additional.
To date, we have selected high quality carbon offsets from around the world that reduce greenhouse gas emissions — ranging from landfill gas projects in Caldwell County, NC, and Steuben County, NY, to animal-waste management systems in Mexico and Brazil. Our funding helps make it possible for equipment to be installed that captures and destroys the methane gas produced as the waste decomposes.
, the primary component in natural gas, is a significant contributor to global warming. We chose to focus on landfill and agricultural methane reduction projects because methane's impact on warming is very well understood, it's easy to measure how much methane is captured and the capture wouldn't happen without our financing (for the projects we're investing in, they couldn't make enough money selling the gas).
We need fundamental changes to global energy and transportation infrastructure to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions over the long term. In the meantime, the projects to which we contribute offer measurable emissions reductions and allow us to take responsibility for our carbon footprint. To that end, we're always looking for good emissions-reduction projects to support. If you have a landfill gas or agricultural methane carbon offset project you think we should consider, please visit
for more information about how to participate in our latest carbon-offset procurement round.
Posted by Alice Ryan, Green Energy Project Manager
Earth Engine, powered by Google
I'm here in Copenhagen this week, at the COP15 International Climate Change Conference. Whether you're attending in-person, or reading news headlines from home, you can't miss the fact that addressing climate change requires the world to solve a mind-boggling mix of science, policy and political issues. These are formidable challenges, but new technologies can help provide solutions for these complex problems. For example, one of the most promising areas of compromise has been an accord to compensate countries for preserving forests and other natural landscapes that play a crucial role in reducing emissions. Implementation of the agreement, known as
Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation
, or REDD, will require the ability to accurately track deforestation at a regional and global level.
Despite the widespread availability of global satellite imagery through products like Google Earth and Google Maps, it hasn't been easy for tropical nations to understand the state of their ecosystem, and to quantitatively monitor changes in forest coverage or other key indicators. That's why I'm proud to announce a new computational platform for global-scale analysis of satellite imagery: Earth Engine, powered by Google.
At an event today hosted by
Avoided Deforestation Partners
, global leaders from the President of Guyana to the Prime Minister of Norway expressed their support for REDD. Earlier today, the U.S, Australia, France, Japan, Norway and Britain pledged $3.5 billion over the next three years to protect rainforests. At the event, I demonstrated a prototype forest monitoring application built on top of Earth Engine that we developed together with the
Carnegie Institution for Science
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
. Traditional forest monitoring is complex and expensive, requiring access to large amounts of satellite data, lots of hard drives to hold the data, lots of computers to process the data, and lots of time while you wait for various computations to finish. Our prototype demonstrates how Earth Engine makes all of this easier, by moving everything into the cloud. Google supplies data, storage, and computing muscle. As a result, you can visualize forest change in fractions of a second over the web, instead of the minutes or hours that traditional offline systems require for such analysis. The prototype applications running on Earth Engine aren't yet available to the public, but you can see screen shots in our earlier
We want to ensure this technology is widely available when it's ready, so today I formally announced Google.org's commitment to provide our Earth Engine free to tropical countries to support their forest monitoring programs. I believe that this is just the first of many Earth Engine applications that will help enable scientists, policymakers, and the general public to better monitor and understand the Earth's ecosystems.
Posted by Brian McClendon, VP Engineering
A simple way to curb climate change
(Cross-posted from Google's
Public Policy Blog
People often get up in settings like the
international climate change conference
in Copenhagen and make complicated pronouncements that leave heads spinning. Today was different. Google, GE, the Climate Group, and NRDC, supported by other leading businesses and NGOs, had
a simple message
: governments across the world should ensure people have real-time access to their home energy information.
Most of us know little about how we use energy in our homes, other than what our monthy power bill tells us. Yet
show that when people can see in real-time how much energy they are using, they save up to 15% on their electricity use with simple behavioral changes, and even more with investments in energy efficiency. The savings are huge when added up: if all US households reduced 15% of their energy use by 2020 it would be equivalent to taking 35 million cars off the road and would save consumers $46 billion on their energy bills.
As 40,000 people gather in Copenhagen to fight global warming, we think that's a solution that governments should be paying attention to. This group, which will take other actions after the meeting has ended, has begun a push to give ordinary citizens the tools to save money and save the planet. A lot of the decisions on the table in Copenhagen are hard, we believe this one is simple.
Copenhagen statement signers: Google, GE, The Climate Group, NRDC, Alliance to Save Energy, Center for American Progress, Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition, Digital Energy Solutions Campaign, Dow, Energy Future Coalition, Intel, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, US Green Building Council, Whirlpool
Posted by Michael Terrell, Energy Policy Counsel, Google.org
Seeing the forest through the cloud
Today, at the
International Climate Change Conference
(COP15) in Copenhagen, we demonstrated a new technology prototype that enables online, global-scale observation and measurement of changes in the earth's forests. We hope this technology will help stop the destruction of the world's rapidly-disappearing forests. Emissions from tropical deforestation are comparable to the emissions of all of the European Union, and are greater than those of all cars, trucks, planes, ships and trains worldwide. According to the
, protecting the world's standing forests is a highly cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. The United Nations has proposed a framework known as
(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) that would provide financial incentives to rainforest nations to protect their forests, in an effort to make forests worth "more alive than dead." Implementing a global REDD system will require that each nation have the ability to accurately monitor and report the state of their forests over time, in a manner that is independently verifiable. However, many of these tropical nations of the world lack the technological resources to do this, so we're working with scientists, governments and non-profits to change this. Here's what we've done with this prototype to help nations monitor their forests:
Start with satellite imagery
Satellite imagery data can provide the foundation for measurement and monitoring of the world's forests. For example, in Google Earth today, you can fly to Rondonia, Brazil and easily observe the advancement of deforestation over time, from 1975 to 2001:
(Landsat images courtesy USGS)
This type of imagery data — past, present and future — is available all over the globe. Even so, while today you can view deforestation in Google Earth, until now there hasn't been a way to measure it.
Then add science
With this technology, it's now possible for scientists to analyze raw satellite imagery data and extract meaningful information about the world's forests, such as locations and measurements of deforestation or even regeneration of a forest. In developing this prototype, we've collaborated with Greg Asner of
Carnegie Institution for Science
, and Carlos Souza of
. Greg and Carlos are both at the cutting edge of forest science and have developed software that creates forest cover and deforestation maps from satellite imagery. Organizations across Latin America use Greg's program, Carnegie Landsat Analysis System (
), and Carlos' program, Sistema de Alerta de Deforestation (
), to analyze forest cover change. However, widespread use of this analysis has been hampered by lack of access to satellite imagery data and computational resources for processing.
Handle computation in the cloud
What if we could offer scientists and tropical nations access to a high-performance satellite imagery-processing engine running online, in the “Google cloud”? And what if we could gather together all of the earth’s raw satellite imagery data — petabytes of historical, present and future data — and make it easily available on this platform? We decided to find out, by working with Greg and Carlos to re-implement their software online, on top of a prototype platform we've built that gives them easy access to terabytes of satellite imagery and thousands of computers in our data centers.
Here are the results of running CLASlite on the satellite imagery sequence shown above:
CLASlite online - This shows deforestation and degradation in Rondonia, Brazil from 1986-2008, with the red indicating recent activity
Here's the result of running SAD in a region of recent deforestation pressure in Mato Grosso, Brazil:
SAD online - The red "hotspots" indicate deforestation that has happened within the last 30 days
Combining science with massive data and technology resources in this way offers the following advantages:
: On a top-of-the-line desktop computer, it can take days or weeks to analyze deforestation over the Amazon. Using our cloud-based computing power, we can reduce that time to seconds. Being able to detect illegal logging activities faster can help support local law enforcement and prevent further deforestation from happening.
Ease of use and lower costs
: An online platform that offers easy access to data, scientific algorithms and computation horsepower from any web browser can dramatically lower the cost and complexity for tropical nations to monitor their forests.
Security, privacy and transparency
: Governments and researchers don't want to share sensitive data and results before they are ready. Our cloud-based platform allows users to control access to their data and results. At the same time, because the data, analysis and results reside online, they can also be easily shared, made available for collaboration, presented to the public and independently verified — when appropriate.
Climate change impact
: We think that a suitably scaled-up and enhanced version of this platform could be a promising as a tool for forest monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) in support of efforts such as REDD.
As a Google.org product, this technology will be provided to the world as a not-for-profit service. This technology prototype is currently available to a small set of partners for testing purposes — it's not yet available to the general public but we expect to make it more broadly available over the next year. We are grateful to a host of individuals and organizations (
find full list here
) who have advised us on developing this technology. In particular, we would like to thank the
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
for their close partnership since the initial inception of this project. The goal of the Moore Foundation’s Environmental Conservation Program is to change the ways in which people use important terrestrial and coastal marine ecosystems to conserve critical ecological systems and functions, while allowing sustainable use. We're also working with the Group on Earth Observations (
), a consortium of national government bodies, inter-governmental organizations,
and research institutions through GEO's Forest Carbon Tracking (FCT) task force. Last month together we
GEO FCT portal
and are now exploring how we can also together bring the power of this new technology to tropical nations.
We're excited to be able to share this early prototype and look forward to seeing what's possible.
Posted by Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google.org and Dr. Amy Luers, Environment Manager, Google.org
Innovation and the Transformation of the Global Energy System
Last Monday, we hosted experts from the U.S. Department of Energy, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Nth Power and Google for a discussion on clean energy innovation in our San Francisco office. The panelists focused on the important role innovation plays in seizing the economic benefits of developing and deploying cost-effective low carbon technologies.
We were honored to have
Under Secretary of Energy Kristina Johnson
deliver the opening remarks live from Washington DC. Panelists included
Dr. Ernie Moniz
, Director of the MIT Energy Initiative,
Dr. Daniel Kammen
, Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Renewable and Appropriate Energy,
Dr. Lynn Orr
, Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University,
, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives at Google, and
, Managing Director of Nth Power.
The discussion centered on key themes and policy solutions for advancing clean energy innovation:
Promptly establishing a price on CO2 emissions to drive an economically efficient private sector market for new clean energy capital investments;
Accelerating the introduction of economy-wide energy efficiency standards and incentives that drive substantial reduction in energy use within a decade;
The central role of university research;
Expanding and sustaining a clean energy technology innovation agenda focused on both supply and demand. On that point:
The unprecedented boost that the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
provided for clean energy technology research, development and demonstration (RD&D) and the upcoming challenges of the post-stimulus funding "cliff";
The need to increase federal RD&D investment to a minimum of $15B/year and sustain funding for at least a decade;
Clean Energy Deployment Administration
, as currently under development in Congress, to help jump-start full-scale cost-competitive commercial deployment.
These policies, if adopted and supported, will help us at last put in place what has been lacking in terms of clean energy innovation: a robust pipeline extending from basic research to applied research to demonstration projects to commercial scale-up to full deployment. At Google, we call this cycle "Lightbulbs to Lightbulbs" -- from the initial "lightbulb moment" of invention to full commercial deployment. Each one of these steps is vital to the whole process. Ignoring any of these steps can inhibit the effectiveness of the whole innovation cycle.
Watch the full event here:
With equal measures of smart policy, investment and will, we can realize the great role clean energy innovation can play to solving climate change and boosting the American economy.
Posted by Charles Baron, Google.org
Climate tools for Copenhagen and beyond
Representatives from around the world
arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark today
to negotiate a successor treaty for the
. This 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) has been called the most important conference in a decade.
In fact, in an unprecedented initiative, 56 major newspapers in 45 countries published a
calling on politicians and negotiators gathering in Copenhagen to strike an ambitious deal on combating climate change. The editorial appeared in 20 languages including Chinese, Russian and Arabic. It asserts that the Copenhagen summit has the power "to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it."
So in honor of this important event, we've built a number of new tools to give delegates — and you at home — easy access to useful information to help visualize and explore data and issues relating to climate change.
a series of new
Google Earth climate change layers and tours
in collaboration with the Danish government. Check out these tours to explore the effects of climate change and get a better understanding of the scenarios that could unfold if we don't stop this environmental threat. The tours were developed together with leading environmental organizations and individuals including
The World Wildlife Fund
as well as Al Gore, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.
Over the past weeks, many of you have already uploaded personal statements of your hopes (and fears) for our planet through YouTube and the
Raise Your Voice
campaign. Now the search is on for the best video and text questions to be delivered to global leaders and climate activists who will come together in Copenhagen to answer the top-ranked questions from the YouTube channel in a townhall produced by CNN International.
Voting with Google Moderator
will continue until December 14th.
An Australia-based Googler also
a tool called
Show your Vote
which puts the supporting voices for a global deal right on a Google Map. This tool can be integrated into any website to help drive the outreach and collect votes, and can already be found on
WWF Earth Hour
And if you're in Denmark with us, check out two unique installations powered by Google and YouTube. The first, a giant
, is an art installation that visualizes one metric ton of carbon dioxide and has YouTube videos streaming on its walls. The second is an interactive
simulator made up of flat-screen panels and controlled with a free roam Space Navigator 6-axis joystick. (It's cool, trust us.) Welcome to Copenhagen!
Posted by Jonas Vang, Sr. Industry Analyst and Benjamin Kott, Green Business Operations
Climate Action - Let Gov. Schwarzenegger be your guide!
Today Governor Schwarzenegger and the
California Natural Resources Agency
, a new Google Earth-based tool designed to help Californians learn more about climate impacts and adaptation. The
Stockholm Environmental Institute
(SEI) helped develop the CalAdapt prototype with support from the California Energy Commission and Google.org. SEI has been a leader in developing an international network of interactive climate adaptation tools, as you can see at
. CalAdapt is still in Beta, but the goal for this interactive tool is to bring
science to the people
And California has the science. The
California Climate Change Center
is one of the few state-funded climate research programs in the country. The Center has provided critical support for research and collaboration among scientists and resource managers in a series of state-wide climate assessments.
Don't miss Gov. Schwarzenegger's narrated Google Earth tour, which shows the risks of continued climate change for Californians and the important actions state and local agencies are taking to address these. See the short video version below (and the longer one
) or download the full tour for Google Earth
. You can learn more about California's response in its
Climate Adaptation Strategy
, which was also released today.
We're pleased to see California's continued leadership in addressing climate change.
Dr. Amy Luers, Senior Manager, Environment, Google.org
Show Your Vote for COP15
(Cross-posted from the
Google Australia Blog
One of the benefits working at Google is the ability to spend 20% of your time on projects you are passionate about. Recently I was lucky enough to attend the
Australian Conservation Foundation's Climate Project Summit
, where I met Al Gore, and was trained as a
Climate Project Presenter
. This led me to devote my 20% time to develop
Show Your Vote
. Built as an open-source platform, Show Your Vote enables people around the world to tell the world's leaders to seal a fair and effective deal for climate change.
Some major environmental campaigns (including
) as well as
, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, are now using Show Your Vote to help visualize public support of next week's
, the Climate Change Conference taking place in Copenhagen.
No matter where you are in the world, see all the ways in which you can engage in the COP15 on this
Virtual participation in COP15
One of the big challenges in activating people on the issue of climate change is that there are a myriad of campaigns - big ones, small and local ones - taking place all over the world. I really wanted to provide a single platform that all campaigns and websites can use to collectively show the vote. So I developed a "web element" similar in function to
Google Web Elements
, which anyone can insert into a site so that people can vote and see the collective vote. They can also get educational tools on their own website by simply filling out the
, and copying and pasting a single line of HTML code.
Google App Engine
provides the hosting solution that makes this all possible. And I'd like to thank fellow Googlers Pamela Fox, Bob Aman, Rupert Breheny and Benjamin Kott for volunteering their time to make Show Your Vote possible.
Show Your Vote has three tabs: Vote, Explore, and Learn. The Vote tab allows individuals and organizations to show their vote.
The Explore tab displays individual votes aggregated by post code, and organizations by their own custom icons. The voting map is powered by the
Google Maps API
. Additionally, social networking tools powered by
Google Friend Connect
help people within the global community to share their messages of support. Individual votes are aggregated into postal codes, and organizations can upload their own icon to the map.
tab contains rich educational pieces, narrated by some of the top names in science, NGOs and the political world. These tours were created by the
Google Earth Outreach
's new touring capabilities.
In the countdown to COP15, I'm hoping that we can collect enough of a global public show of support to amplify the need to change climate change, drive collective action, and reinforce the need for our world leaders to act now. Please join me in helping to show the vote!
Posted by Justin Baird, Innovationist, Google Australia
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