Google launches new features to help users shrink their carbon footprints

Google has announced a new suite of features that will allow users to make sustainable decisions. These new services are focused on reducing the planet's warming greenhouse gas emissions and can be found primarily on Search, Maps, Travel, and Nest.
Before we go into the details about how the new tools work, let's take a moment to review the context. Some environmental advocates have called for companies to be held accountable for shifting the responsibility for the climate crisis onto consumers. The impact of a single consumer's individual actions on the climate crisis is far greater than holding big corporations responsible for their emissions. Google's Wednesday announcements are not intended to reduce its carbon footprint.

The cost of holding big corporations responsible for their emissions is far greater than any individual consumer's.

Despite this, it is imperative that we do everything possible to prevent the climate crisis getting worse. Here's a breakdown on what Google has just announced.

Search

Google will change the way that results for climate-related issues appear in its Search platform. It plans to do this sometime during October. According to Google, users will be directed to a dedicated page that contains high-quality climate-related information. Google plans to source content from respected authorities, including the United Nations.

Google also stated that it wanted to make it easier to find eco-friendly options for shoppers when they shop on Google. Google will now show hybrid and electric vehicles in search results when people are based in the US. Users will be able to find nearby charging stations compatible with their model when searching for an electric vehicle.

Google users in the US will begin to see suggestions Wednesday regarding more efficient home appliances for their online shopping. This applies to all searches for stoves, dryers, water heaters and stoves.

Google did not announce any changes in YouTube searches, which are a popular platform for misinformation about climate change. According to a recent analysis by Avaaz, 20% of the top 100 videos for searching global warming are videos with misinformation. Google has not also met the demands of its employees to cancel fossil fuel company contracts or stop lobbying for candidates who derail climate action.

Maps

Google Maps will allow Americans to see which routes are most fuel-efficient starting Wednesday. This feature was first announced by Google Maps in March. Fuel efficiency reduces both gas consumption and tailpipe pollution. Google Maps will choose the fastest route if it is the most fuel efficient. The app will also show users the options if the fuel-efficient route takes longer. This allows them to make informed decisions about which route to take. Google claims that users in Europe will be able do the same thing starting in 2022.

This will theoretically help Google Maps users to reduce their CO2 emissions. Passenger vehicles typically emit just five metric tons per year. A person living in the United States, with its highest per capita CO2 emissions, could be responsible for 18 metric tons of CO2 each year. Google released 12,529,953 tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere in 2019. This is roughly equivalent to more then 2.73 million vehicles polluting the atmosphere in a single year.

In the coming months, Lite Navigation will be available wherever cycling navigation is available on Google Maps. This feature allows bikers to see details and instructions about their route from their phone without leaving their computer. The app will also share information about nearby bike and scooter shares in 300 cities, including Taipei, New York, So Paulo and New York.

Travel

Google will allow users to view the carbon dioxide emissions associated each flight when they search for flights. This feature will be available starting Wednesday. You can even see the impact of your seat choice on your carbon footprint. Because they take up more space, and thus contribute to the planes emissions, taking a seat in first or business class will increase your carbon footprint. Recent research has shown that choosing a route that is more fuel-efficient can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 63 percent.

A more fuel-efficient itinerary can reduce CO2 pollution.

Separately, Google revealed plans to expand its research into reducing emissions from driving and enabling traffic lights that direct traffic more efficiently. The program, which uses AI, was piloted by Google in Israel. It found fuel consumption and delay times to be reduced by between 10 and 20 percent. The program will be expanded to other cities, beginning with Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Nest

Google has launched a new service to Nest thermostat owners in the US. It will begin rolling out over the next few weeks. Nest Renew allows Nest thermostat owners to shift their heating or cooling to the times there is more renewable energy. This strategy has been endorsed by environmentalists and energy professionals as a way to make homes more efficient and reduce strain on the electricity grids during peak demand.

Google will offer Renew Premium subscriptions in select markets. This would allow subscribers to offset their fossil-fueled electricity consumption by investing in renewable energy (through renewable certificate). The Verges guide to all changes in Nest Renew will provide more information.

Since 2007, Google has been offset its own carbon emissions instead of completely eliminating them. It has been able since then to declare that it is now carbon neutral. Google committed last year to running its data centers and offices entirely on locally-sourced carbon free energy by 2030. This commitment puts it ahead of other tech companies that have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality. Google's data centers are now powered by 67 percent clean energy according to Kate Brandt, Google Chief Sustainability Officer.

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