Nov 26

Brady Forrest

Brady Forrest

CO2Stats: Measuring a Site's Impact

CO2Stats is a widget that tracks and calculates the CO2 emissions of a website. The emissions add up with each pageview (the widget below is starting at 0.000198).

The widget tracks all pageviews on its installed websites and currently reaches one million uniques a month. As mentioned in the San Jose Mercury " It works on the assumption that three minutes on a Web site generates three grams of CO2 - roughly equal to the amount one person generates by breathing for 4.5 minutes."

CO2Stats was sent to me by its creators after I posted about Dopplr Offsettr (Radar post). Like Dopplr Offsettr its an attempt to make people aware of the environmental impact of their actions.

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Comments: 12

  Richard [11.26.07 05:09 AM]

The fanatacism of the "Carbon Religion" is ridiculous.

I recommend that you stop breathing if you want to reduce carbon emmissions.

I'm sure you'll delete this comment, since global warming fanatics won't accept debate or criticism.

  Tim O'Reilly [11.26.07 07:08 AM]

Au contraire, Richard, this is an issue that requires complete transparency and debate. We really need to know the truth about this issue.

As far as I know, it's opponents of the idea of global warming (especially in the Bush administration) who've done their best to suppress the science here. There is certainly a hysteria building among global warming doomsayers, but on balance, I'd say that the opponents have done far more to suppress debate.

There are certainly people who disagree, including people I respect immensely, like Freeman Dyson. (See his Three heresies speech. And I find Bjorn Lomborg's arguments in Cool It to be thought-provoking, but not entirely compelling. (I've been meaning to write a review.)

But even Lomborg has changed his position from skepticism (in The Skeptical Environmentalist) about whether global warming exists, and whether it is a problem, to focus on the argument that it is far from the most important problem we are facing, and that our "save the world" dollars would be spent far more effectively somewhere else.

But I don't think that it's a zero-sum game. In fact, I've argued endlessly with my brother about global warming. My argument is this: we don't know how big a problem it is. You may be right that it's overblown. But weigh the two approaches. If you're right, there's no bad outcome. We've invested in R&D (which almost always increases wealth in unexpected ways), we've reduced our dependence on foreign oil (which most political observers say we should have done thirty years ago), and on the whole, we have made a better world for our children.

If you're wrong, we've done nothing about serious problems, while continuing to pump dollars to oil company fat cats and middle east sheiks.

  Solal [11.26.07 09:02 AM]

A few grams for each page view... to compare with the hundred pounds each American emit every day on average. This is about as useful as the "black Google background" stuff.

  brady [11.26.07 09:39 AM]


While I agree that this isn't going to change the world ambient data will keep people thinking about their consumption and actions.

  Ivan Kirigin [11.26.07 11:01 AM]

The problem with measures like these is that they don't actually expose useful information.

I live in the Boston area. It gets really cold here. The vast majority of my carbon output goes into heating my home. We don't need widgets for this. We need a notably non-sexy campaign to get people to buy more efficient heaters and buy more insulation.

How about a widget that does IP location, assumes the average efficiency of home heating/cooling for that area, shows the carbon footprint, and recommends improvements and maybe even local retailers.

Tim, you hit on an important point about R&D. Climate Change and many other issues are ENGINEERING problems. We need better technology that will allow alternatives to beat conventional energy generation methods on price alone. But compare the cost of a Grad student to the subsidy for non-solutions like hybrid cars. We waste time, attention, and money on things that aren't real solutions.

A real carbon offset program would simply be a suggested donation to a non-profit specializing in fellowships for engineers developing promising new technology.

  rick gregory [11.26.07 11:36 AM]

This is silly - it's a publicity stunt, not useful software.

It may work on the assumption that a pageview translates into 3 grams of CO2... but where's the evidence for that? And what should we do if it IS true? stop surfing? Oohh... what impact do cached pages have vs dynamic pages?? sigh...

Tim/Brady - yes, we need to be aware of the issue... but at this stage I don't think that lack of awareness is that much of an issue at this point. Lack of how to materially affect things IS more of an issue. For example, I have oil heat - I can use varying degrees of biodiesel in my furnace... will that help or hurt? And my individual changes will only have an infinitesimal effect on the world - how do we effect change on a large scale by getting significant numbers of people to make noticeable changes in their impact on the environment?

The first commenter expresses an important point - by asking about carbon impact regarding every little action we risk overloading the public and appearing as fanatics who ask the impossible. What we need to do is to get past the guilt phase of things and start focusing on how people can make changes that matter. Then we need to find ways to make those changes across enough people that it will actually affect the environment. If we can't do that, this is just meaningless self-flagellation.

  Joe [11.26.07 02:51 PM]

The widget itself may be silly, but raising awareness and tossing this information out there isn't silly at all. Many large hosting facilities are moving into the world of paying close attention to carbon emmissions.

I've heard that 1 in 3 servers are sold to Yahoo, Google, or Microsoft. That's a huge target for a government pressed with increasing energy & environmental demands to look towards. You can bet they're likely ahead of the curve on knowing exactly what and how they're emitting... Groups like The Green Grid ( are starting to really come together under this increased attention.

  rick gregory [11.27.07 10:12 AM]


Agreed. I think Sun's pushing of the energy efficiency of their servers is related to this, but let's note that the reason most people are interested in significant savings is the reduced power bill, not the green issue.

The difference between this issue on the data center level and the pageview levels is actionability. Someone buying a lot of servers can take an action to mitigate the impact of running those servers buy putting energy efficiency in the RFP as a criterion. There's nothing I can do when viewing a page to reduce the impact of that pageview and there's nothing that the site owner can really do either unless they can find a host that is built with all new, energy efficient equipment. But then, this widget won't show us the impact of switching hosts, will it?

  Sharon [02.06.08 07:45 AM]

Please, stop it. How ridiculous. Sound science, that is real science that is not funded by any corporation, proves PROVES there is no global warming. I am just disgusted with this crap. Cripes.

  Patrick Rafter [06.04.08 12:44 PM]

Tradeshows and conferences consume a huge quantity of energy. Next week (June 10-11, 2008), there will be an FREE online-only event called The Virtual Energy Forum that actually practices what it preaches:

Register at

  Pam Hawk [07.25.08 06:35 PM]

Global Warming or not, this widget is brilliant. Have you noticed that the widgets out there have different websites embedded into them?

I first saw this widget at a blog entitled CoffeeCoffeeCoffee, and under the number it states that the widget was "sponored by The Green Rocket" with a link to their website. I clicked on the CO2 Stats link to get to their website (which says very very little about what it does and what it's for) and refreshed the page. Voila! The widget sponsorship changed from The Green Rocket to Rods and Cones. Hitting refresh again changes the sponsorship to Greenfox School.

I'm not sure what the "sponsorship" rates are, but it sure looks like advertising to me. So under the guise of wanting to show everyone how green ones blog is, they're willing to (unknowingly?) add a little green colored advertising widget to their blog.

Pretty darn clever, if you ask me.
Sneaky, but clever.

  Bruce Higgins [07.25.08 08:37 PM]

Mr O'Rielly:

You have misstated Lomborg's position. He has not denied human causes of global warming in any publication I've ever read, including "The Skeptical Environmentalist", nor in any public statement I've ever heard him make.

What he has done - and his adversaries have not - is promote new science and ideas as they come forward. His voice is calm; they are shrill.

Shrill voices define people as advocates at best; never as scientists in their shrill roles.

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