Google flight emission changes: Search engine “airbrushes” out emissions from flying
he way that Google calculates the climate impact of a flight has changed, making them appear to have less impact on the environment than it did before.
Flights now appear to have much less impact on the environment than they did before because “the search engine has taken a key driver of global warming out of its online carbon flight calculator”, reports the BBC.
Commenting on the changes, Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist of Greenpeace, said: “Google has airbrushed a huge chunk of the aviation industry’s climate impacts from its pages.”
Speaking about the changes, the company said that they’d made a change following consultations with its “industry partners”, that affect the carbon calculator embedded in the company’s Google Flights search tool.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What are the changes that Google has made to how it measures emissions?
Search engine Google hosts nine out of every 10 online searches, which could have huge repercussions for people’s travel decisions.
The company said it made the changes following consultations with its “industry partners”, affecting the carbon calculator embedded into the company’s Google Flights search tool.
If you’ve ever attempted to find a flight in Google, you will have used its Google Flights tool, reports the BBC.
The function appears towards the top of search results, and it allows people to scour the web for flights and fares, while also offering to calculate the emissions generated by your journey.
The feature aims to “help you make more sustainable travel choices” yet, in July, the search engine excluded all the global-warming impacts of flying, reports the BBC.
The result of this is that the search engine’s calculations now only represent just over half of the real impact of the climate on flights.
How does flying affect the environment?
The obvious way flying affects the enviroment is through the CO2 that it produces by burning aviation fuel.
Additional effects include the creation of long, thin clouds high up in the atmosphere, known as contrails, which trap heat made by the Earth, leading to net warming.
These additional effects mean that aviation is responsible for approximately 3.5 per cent of global warming caused by human activity, reports the BBC.
What have people said about the changes that Google has made to how it measures emissions?
Google’s chief sustainability officer Kate Brandt has claimed the company aims to “build tools that enable travellers and business around the world to prioritise sustainability”.
However, industry experts believe the opposite is the case. Kit Brennan, a founder of Thrust Carbon, a UK company specialising in helping businesses reduce the effect their travel has on the climate, said: “I worry the impact of the equivalent of hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 will be ignored because it has become invisible to customers.”
Professor David Lee, of Manchester Metropolitan University, and the author of the most comprehensive scientific assessment of the contribution of air travel to global warming, said: “It now significantly understates the global impact of aviation on the climate.”