Google has recently been in hot waters over allegedly hiding the results of total carbon dioxide emissions in its flight search engine. It has been reported that passengers can easily see the number of carbon dioxide emissions per route through the “Google Flight” search engine, but the recent changes in this flight feature have stunned analysts. The feature is also liable to demonstrate total carbon dioxide emissions per passenger on any journey. The change in these reported emissions was first observed by the BBC in July of this year. What is actually modified is the number of carbon dioxide emissions that are reduced to half of the total amount that Google Flights previously reported.
These carbon dioxide emissions have been measured in kilograms of “carbon dioxide equivalent” (CO2e)” that depict the harm done to the environment by airplanes in terms of the water vapors released from the contrails of the aircraft. In response to the allegations, Google said, “We strongly believe that non-CO2 effects should be included in the model, but not at the expense of accuracy for individual flight estimates. To address this issue, we’re working closely with leading academics on soon-to-be-published research to better understand how the impact of contrails varies based on critical factors like time of day and region, which will in turn help us more accurately reflect that information to consumers.”
Coupled with this, the company claims that it is practically not possible to demonstrate the exact amount of carbon dioxide emissions on any given flight as there are a lot of other parameters on which these emissions depend, including time of the day and location of the emissions. Google further said that it is trying to improve algorithms in its models that will accurately predict the intensity of emissions. But until then, it is just fine to simply report CO2 emissions, the company elaborated.
Dr. Doug Parr, who is the chief scientist of Greenpeace UK and is also a critic of this matter, said, “The last thing it should do is quietly greenwash the planetary impacts of one of the world’s most stubborn polluters. We’re in the middle of a full-blown climate emergency that airlines continue to fuel—it’s absolutely vital that the world’s biggest search engine gives decent information about this industry’s climate footprint.”