Delivering in Doah

SandyHopes were high but realistic when COP18 started in Doah. I for one did not anticipate much after the colossal failure in Copenhagen (COP15). But believing that we have to solve or differences, I did hope that at least something would come out of all the effort put in.

From the outset the ambition was to reduce CO2 emissions significantly in-order to keep the Earth from heating up. Especially the developing countries had hoped for a deal that ensured the possibility for sustainable growth. The impact of climate change have been felt in all the countries that “normally” were against any kind of real restriction on emissions so there is plenty incentive to take action.

The initial target was two degrees reduction in global warming, but now it is more likely that we will hit four degrees no matter what we do. So when the Danish climate minister Martin Lidegaard looks towards 2014 for a start of the negotiation for a solution I for one do not think it is even close to a success. Or as he puts it.

“It is crucial that we will soon have taken decisions to ensure we can keep our political promises. Therefore, I am delighted that we have established that the climate change conference in 2014 will be about how we limit greenhouse gas emissions within the next few years – for example through energy efficiency improvements and the removal of subsidies for fossil fuels”, says Martin Lidegaard.

I do belive that if we continue down this path we are creating the seeds to our own destruction. The current politicians are thinking mare about the next election (for those countries that are lucky) than about how to lead their people safely and wisely to a better tomorrow. For better or worse they are the only ones that can make real changes to global warming if we like it or not.

I have attached the official Danish press release from the COP its in Danish, but the message is clear if you read between the lines – we took a real big step in the wrong direction.


Denmark to be fossil free by 2050 – a comparative advantage

«Deep Sea Delta», boreplattform, her i Nordsjøen

Oil platform

Most of the developed countries have agreed to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. By the Kyoto accord the number greenhouse gasses have to be reduced 5,2% by next year and the EU have set ambitious target of 30% reduction by 2020. But now Denmark is setting even higher goals as the ambition is to be independent of all fossil fuels by 2050 that is Denmark will be self sufficient on coal, oil and gas. With these initiatives the CO2 reduction will for Denmark alone be around 35% to 40% in the ear 2020 e.g. 5% higher than the EU target.

While most of us will agree that this could very well be too ambitions a target to go for but none the less it is what the government is aiming for. So will this not make Denmark less competitive in the future you might ask? Well according to the Danish minister, Martin Lidegaard, for energy it is what is going to make the country the even more competitive.

According to the International agency energy the price of fossil fuels will go up by one third towards 2035. This means that crude oil will be traded from somewhere between 140 and 160 USD on an average day of trading. Even though one cannot make a direct link between the price of crude and the price one have to pay at the gas station there is no doubt that the increase is going to be significant. Together with the other types of fossil fuels that we need it all amounts up quite a big expense that ordinary people have to pay, money mind you that could go to other purposes.

It is this comparative advantage the government will take advantage of and being first mover can prove to have its advantages. In the governments plan Denmark will be the birthplace of green and sustainable energy innovation. A whole industry will flourish and companies and universities will work together in order to crate and share knowledge that will make it possible to achieve the targets. Energy consumption will be taxed (even harder) so to give incentive to consumers and companies so that they reduce their use of energy even more than they do now.

The ambition is that Denmark should be dependent on “green” electricity. This will be done through a capacity increase of a 1200MW windmill farm on the ocean and by building 1800MW of windmills on land. A rough calculation based on some of the biggest windmills we have today will mean that around 600 mills have to be built. There will also be a massive increase in biomass fuels in order to substitute fuel like coal.

I would like to think that Denmark can gain a comparative advantage by becoming a greener nation than the rest of the industrialised world, but there are some things that have to be realised if this dream is to become true. First fuel prices have to go up significantly as it is predicted and secondly no one else is setting even more ambitious goals that could mean that we get outcompeted even bore we start.

As the situation is right now there seem to be no consensus by the biggest energy consumers in the world to reduce its consumption. As long as they keep on being divided there is a good chance that the plan might work and that Denmark will remain one of the top nations in the world. Just imaging the difference it will mean if the US remains on its current energy course and the price of oil reaches 200 or 250 USD what will it mean to society and not least what will it mean to Denmark that will not have to worry. Well it is food for thought.

Apple is the”nuclear” cloud of cloud computing

Greenpece word mark

Image via Wikipedia

According to Greenpeace is Apple the number one polluter when it comes to running cloud computing data centers. But is this really true? Any student or researcher will tell you that if you put the question right you will get the answer you have hoped for and in this case it is as true as ever. So what did Greenpeace try to investigate?

“The ‘cloud’ is IT’s biggest innovation and disruption. Cloud computing is converting our work, finances, health and relationships into invisible data, centralised in out-of-the-way storage facilities or data centres. This report seeks to answer an important question about this trend, currently underway across the globe: As cloud technology disrupts our lives in many positive ways, are the companies that are changing everything failing to address their own growing environmental footprint?

Well, of cause it will be more polluting is because in the question you have excluded any other alternative. It is like asking if the windmill industry is polluting well of cause it is because you do not consider the alternative.

Greenpeace sets out to describe some of the key learning points that they have discovered.

Key learnings:

•Data centres to house the explosion of virtual information currently consume 1.5-2% of all global electricity; this is growing at a rate of 12% a year.

We should be happy that more and more of the data that we store are centralized so that we utilize the combined capacity of these facilities instead of multiple decentralized and inefficient systems which will cause even more pollution.

•The IT industry points to cloud computing as the new, green model for our IT infrastructure needs, but few companies provide data that would allow us to objectively evaluate these claims.

Well yes according to Greenpeace but try making the math and consider the alternatives e.g. a underutilized server in every home, business and governmental organization that consumes just or close to as much energy if it running at 20% or 99% capacity.

•The technologies of the 21st century are still largely powered by the dirty coal power of the past, with over half of the companies rated herein relying on coal for between 50% and 80% of their energy needs.

The world have failed to realize that coal and oil is a resource that is running out but mostly because the US have made a combined effort to combat any green legislation both nationally and internationally. So if companies in the US want to have alternative they will have a hard time finding any valid alternatives on the market for green energy.

•IT innovations have the potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy, but IT’s own growing demand for dirty energy remains largely unaddressed by

the world’s biggest IT brands.

I think that cloud computing is a greener alternative to more traditional means of data storage.

•There is a lack of transparency across the industry about IT’s own greenhouse gas footprint and a need to open up the books on its energy footprint.

This is quite true. There is very little knowledge about what the carbon emission impact of the big IT companies actually is. It makes me wonder how and why Greenpeace can make such bold statements about the environmental impact of these companies.

•In emerging markets, where there is limited reliable grid electricity, there is a tremendous opportunity for telecom operators to show leadership by investing in renewable energy, but many are relying on heavily polluting diesel generators to fuel their growth.

Well Greenpeace does not actually know this as they state in their report “Clean Energy Index and Coal Intensity are calculated based on estimates of power demand for evaluated facilities” so in reality it is just a guess that this is how things are done at the facilities and not based on any real evidence or investigation. I could properly have come to the same conclusion if I had looked at a map of power plants and compared this to be the different datacenters are located.

•Data centre clusters (Google, Facebook, Apple) are cropping up in places like North Carolina and the US Midwest, where cheap and dirty coal-powered electricity is abundant.

It just underlines my guess that the survey was done based the placement of different facilities and comparing them to the most likely energy source. The claim of Greenpeace is properly true but with the evidence presented they do not actually know this.

•IT companies are failing to prioritise access to clean and renewable energy in their infrastructure sitting decisions.

This is true but growing energy prices are changing this.

•Of the 10 brands graded, Akamai, a global content distribution network, earned top-of-the-class recognition for transparency; Yahoo! had the strongest infrastructure siting policy; Google & IBM demonstrated the most comprehensive overall approach to reduce its carbon footprint to date.

It sounds good that IT companies are becoming more transparent but this does not make the Greenpeace report any more scientifically valid.

•Across the board, IT companies have thus far failed to commit to clean energy in the same way they are embracing energy efficiency, which is holding the sector back from being truly green.

What is truly green according to Greenpeace?

So is Apple the worst of the worst in cloud computing… well we don’t really know do we?

You can read the full Greenpeace report here.