Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

24.9.08

Being appointed Director of Green


Many thanks to Sonia :-D

dilbert.com
Todays Comic




23.9.08

Liquid logic: Computing: Liquid cooling could improve the performance of computers, allow waste heat to be recycled and make solar cells more efficient


Liquid logic
Sep 4th 2008 
From The Economist print edition



Computing: Liquid cooling could improve the performance of computers, allow waste heat to be recycled and make solar cells more efficient


Illustration by Belle Mellor

Illustration by Belle Mellor

READERS of a certain age may remember that Volkswagen Beetles once had air-cooled engines. That made for simplicity. But, eventually, increasing power meant that even VW conceded the point and started to cool its engines with water.

Something similar is happening with computer chips. Each flipping of a "one" to a "zero", or vice versa, generates heat—and the flipping is happening so fast that if nothing is done, the processors in some high-powered computers will soon start melting. Moreover, the trend is to stack chips on top of one another, to improve communications between them. But this makes shedding the heat even harder, because of the falling ratio of the processor's surface area (through which heat can escape) to its volume (the amount of material generating heat).

According to Thomas Brunschwiler, a researcher at IBM's laboratory in Zurich, when you build processors in this way you generate heat at about two kilowatts per cubic centimetre—more intensely than in a nuclear reactor and ten times more than in any other man-made device. That would destroy an uncooled chip within a fraction of a second.

Water, however, can absorb 4,000 times as much heat as air, for a given rise in temperature. Mr Brunschwiler and his colleagues have therefore been experimenting with water-cooling of stacked chips. They have developed a stacked processor permeated by a network of channels. These channels, which have a diameter of 50 microns (about the width of a human hair) are etched using standard silicon-fabrication methods. They enable water to be pumped in a network that runs between the horizontal layers of a stack and the thousands of vertical interconnections that carry information between its layers. The water absorbs the heat and carries it away.

That, in the prototypes at least, is enough to keep the chips from melting. But in these days of environmental awareness, not to mention high energy prices, it seems a waste simply to throw the heat thus collected into the atmosphere. If chips are as hot as power stations, the thinking goes, why not use them as such?

In practice, not enough heat is generated to make a useful amount of electricity. But heat is useful in its own right. It might, for instance, be used to warm buildings. The Zurich laboratory has already constructed a prototype that feeds the water from the chips into a heat-exchanger. The next stage is to link this exchanger to a district-heating system so that it can be pumped into central heating. Bruno Michel, manager of advanced thermal packaging at the laboratory, reckons the heat from a medium-sized data centre—one consuming a megawatt of power—would be enough to warm about 70 houses within a range of 3km. IBM hopes to build such a centre within five years.

If it works, the potential could be huge. At the moment, the world's data centres are estimated to consume about 14 gigawatts of power, and to be responsible for 2% of global carbon-dioxide emissions—roughly the same as air traffic.

Water-cooling of this sort could also make a more direct contribution to the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, by promoting the use of solar energy. Solar cells are also made of silicon, and the latest fashion is to concentrate sunlight on them using mirrors. That means you need less silicon to make a given amount of electricity, but it also makes the silicon very hot—as hot, in fact, as a high-performance microprocessor.

By cooling such devices with liquids, IBM reckons it can increase the amount of sunlight that can be focused on them without destroying them, thus increasing the amount of electrical energy they produce. Supratik Guha, a researcher at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Centre in Yorktown Heights, New York, has found that he can concentrate 2,300 times as much sunlight on a cell as nature normally provides, while maintaining that cell at a (relatively) cool 85°C. Without the cooling system, its temperature would rapidly exceed 1,500°C, causing it to melt. With cooling, the cells can manage an output of 70 watts a square centimetre—a record, according to IBM, and a demonstration that plumbing, too, can be a high-tech form of engineering.

Running dry: The world has a water shortage, not a food shortage


Water for farming 

Running dry 

Sep 18th 2008 
From The Economist print edition



The world has a water shortage, not a food shortage

MOST people may drink only two litres of water a day, but they consume about 3,000 if the water that goes into their food is taken into account. The rich gulp down far more, since they tend to eat more meat, which takes far more water to produce than grains. So as the world's population grows and incomes rise, farmers will—if they use today's methods—need a great deal more water to keep everyone fed: 2,000 more cubic kilometres a year by 2030, according to the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a research centre, or over a quarter more than they use today. Yet in many farming regions, water is scarce and likely to get scarcer as global warming worsens. The world is facing not so much a food crisis as a water crisis, argues Colin Chartres, IWMI's director-general.




The solution, Mr Chartres and others contend, is more efficient use of water or, as the sloganeers put it, "more crop per drop". Some 1.2 billion people, about a fifth of the world's population, live in places that are short of water (see map). Farming accounts for roughly 70% of human water consumption. So when water starts to run out, as is happening in northern China, southern Spain and the western United States, among other places, farming tends to offer the best potential for thrift. But governments, whether to win votes or to protect the poor, rarely charge farmers a market price for water. So they are usually more wasteful than other consumers—even though the value they create from the water is often less than households or industry would be willing to pay for it.

The pressing need is to make water go further. Antoine Frérot, the head of the water division of Veolia Environnement, a French firm, promotes recycling, whereby city wastewater is treated until it can be used in industry or agriculture. This costs about a third less than desalination, and cuts pollution. He expects his recycling business to quadruple in the next decade.

Yet as Mr Frérot himself concedes, there are many even cheaper ways to save water. As much as 70% of water used by farmers never gets to crops, perhaps lost through leaky irrigation channels or by draining into rivers or groundwater. Investment in drip irrigation, or simply repairing the worst leaks, could bring huge savings.

Farmers in poor countries can usually afford such things only if they are growing cash crops, says David Molden of IWMI. Even basic kit such as small rainwater tanks can be lacking. Ethiopia, for example, has only 38 cubic metres of storage capacity per inhabitant, compared to almost 5,000 in Australia. Yet modest water storage can hugely improve yields in rain-fed agriculture, by smoothing over short dry spells. Likewise, pumping water into natural aquifers for seasonal storage tends to be much cheaper than building a big dam, and prevents the great waste of water through evaporation.

Even when water is scarce, it is often squandered. Mr Molden cites the example of cotton-farmers in Uzbekistan, who used to receive a fixed allocation of water for irrigation whether they needed it or not, in a holdover from the days of Soviet central planning. Simply putting farmers in control of the irrigation network, and allowing them to decide how much water they needed, cut consumption by 30%.


Science Photo Library

Science Photo Library
Cotton paying a high price for water

Similarly, rice farmers can sharply cut water consumption by flooding paddy fields only some of the time. Wheat growers in hot places such as India and Australia can conserve water by minimising tilling, leaving a layer of mulch on the fields' surface to absorb rainwater and limit evaporation. In arid regions like the Middle East, Mark Zeitoun of the London School of Economics suggests substituting thirsty crops such as oranges with more abstemious olives and dates. Ideally, countries that are short of water would concentrate on growing the most valuable cash crops, and use the proceeds to import staples.

Agronomists are beginning to devise tools to help monitor the efficiency of water use. Some have designed algorithms that use satellite data on surface temperatures to calculate the rate at which plants are absorbing and transpiring water. That allows governments and development agencies to concentrate their efforts on the most prodigal areas.

But efficient use of water, cautions Pasquale Steduto of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, is just one step to better agricultural yields. Even if farmers use the right amount of water they also need decent seeds and enough fertiliser. In Africa in particular, these and other factors such as pest control, storage and distribution are a bigger drag on yields than a shortage of water.

Raising yields does not always involve greater water consumption, especially when farms are inefficient. It would take little extra water to double cereal output in many parts of Africa, Mr Molden argues. IWMI reckons that some three-quarters of the extra food the world needs could be provided simply by bringing yields in poor countries closer to those of rich ones. That is more palatable than the puritanical alternative: giving up meat and other thirsty products altogether.

Ban Near on Diverting Water From Great Lakes


Ban Near on Diverting Water From Great Lakes
By SUSAN SAULNY

The House began debate Monday on a sweeping bill that would ban almost any diversion of water from the Great Lakes' natural basin to places outside the region.

The measure is intended to put to rest longstanding fears that parched states or even foreign countries could do long-term damage to the basin by tapping into its tremendous body of fresh water.

The bill, which would also put in place strict conservation rules for the eight states that border the lakes, is expected to win House approval, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. It has already been passed by the Senate, and the Bush administration has signaled its support.

So House backing for the measure, known as the Great Lakes Compact, is regarded by its many advocates across the Midwest and in New York and Pennsylvania as a long-sought final piece to a complicated puzzle whose solution started taking shape a decade ago in an effort to give the region control over its water. The fear was that without strict, consistent rules on who is entitled to that water, it might start disappearing.

"People realized that Great Lakes water is a finite resource and that death by a thousand straws is a real threat," said Jordan Lubetkin, a spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation. "There is a perception that because the Great Lakes are so vast, they are immune from harm. That is not the case."

Before the legislation even reached Congress, the states bordering the lakes had to approve the compact individually, agreeing — in a contentious process that itself took years — to certain common goals. The last state to approve, Michigan, did so only in July, following Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

(The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which also border the lakes, have adopted a nearly identical document.)

Though passage in the House is foreseen, support there is not unanimous. Some members say the pact is not strong enough to protect the lakes, which together account for 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water.

Among the dissenters is Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, who complained Monday about an exception that would allow bottled water to be shipped outside the basin, among other management issues.

"Because these concerns remain unaddressed," Mr. Stupak said in a statement, "I regret that I have to urge my colleagues to join me in opposing the compact until proper protections are put in place."

"I see no reason why we must rush this process when our nation's most precious natural resource is at stake," said Mr. Stupak, whose district borders three of the lakes, calling the bottled-water exemption a loophole that could be used for large-scale diversion, exactly what the compact seeks to prevent.

But one of the compact's drafters, Samuel W. Speck, former chairman of the water management working group of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said the exemption was "not an issue."

"By and large, bottled water isn't shipped that far," Mr. Speck said. "We found there is more bottled water sent into the Great Lakes Basin than sent out. It wasn't a matter of us losing water. We actually gain water from the shipping."

"There are those things that would irritate perfectionists," he continued, "but it was the only way to get something so comprehensive and with enforcement enacted in all of the states and provinces. That's an amazing accomplishment, and a very important one as we're looking at greater demands for water and threats that climate change will bring."

Under the measure, water generally would not be allowed to be diverted from the basin except under rare circumstances that would require the approval of all eight bordering states. In addition to the bottled-water exemption, an exception has been made for so-called straddling communities that lie on the basin's borders, among other negotiated concessions based largely on whether diverted water could be restored to the lakes.

As for outlying states, Mr. Speck, among others, said he hoped they realized that guarding the freshwater supply with more vigor was in the long-term interest of the entire country.

"Some people will say, 'Gosh, that's discrimination against other states,' " Mr. Speck said. "The reality is that in the eight Great Lakes states, the largest parts of those states are outside of the basin. They're not treating other states different from how they're treating large areas of their own states."

Another advocate of the compact, Steve Wieckert, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Assembly, said it had caused a tough fight in his state, because about half of Wisconsin falls outside the Great Lakes Basin. Some residents accused him of creating second-class citizens, but Mr. Wieckert, whose own district falls within the basin, said the compact was fair.

"No one else could come up with a better answer," he said. "We needed a compact, and this was the best compact we could come up with."

Catrin Einhorn contributed reporting.

Green Credits by Ron Dembo


Thanks to Ron and Deborah for forwarding this piece

In a nut-shell, governments everywhere face the challenge of how to engage their citizens in a program of carbon emissions reductions. There have been two main approaches so far – carbon taxes and personal carbon quotas. We propose Green Credits, an alternative which is based on rewarding citizens after they have taken actions to reduce their emissions. Green Credits are based on consumer loyalty reward schemes – a simple, proven and widely accepted model.


22.9.08

Carbon Trust & McKinsey: New report spotlights how tackling climate change can create or destroy company value


Thanks to Ian

The report itself is available for download (following free registration) at http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/publications/publicationdetail?productid=CTC740  


Climate change: "The trillion dollar wake up call"

22 September 2008
New report spotlights how tackling climate change can create or destroy company value


Tackling climate change can have a significant impact on company value in six sectors 1 worth a total of $7 trillion, according to a new report by the Carbon Trust launched today: Climate Change: a business revolution?


This Carbon Trust report, based on analysis by McKinsey & Co, found that the deep emissions reductions necessary to tackle climate change and put us on a path to a low carbon economy, will create significant business opportunities and risks.  Companies' futures will be highly dependent on how well prepared they are for the move, which will create large upsides and downsides for business.  

Well positioned and proactive, forward thinking businesses could increase company value by up to 80%. Conversely, poorly positioned and laggard companies run the greatest risk of destroying value.  The groundbreaking research found that as much as 65% of company value was at risk in some sectors. In the automobile industry, for example, both significant potential opportunities and risks were identified, which could transform the sector.

These opportunities and risks are driven by shifts in consumer behaviour, technology innovation and regulation – the latter being the main initiator of change. The effects vary significantly by sector.

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust said:
"Climate change will cause a revolution in business and our findings should act as a trillion dollar wake up call to the investment and business communities.  Companies and investors that prepare now and develop new strategies will reap the commercial rewards of the move to a low carbon economy. The financial risks of inaction are just too vast to ignore.  We can see a trillion dollars of company value change, with leading, well-positioned companies gaining and badly positioned or slow companies losing out."

The study outlines clear recommendations for investors, business and policy makers on how to collaborate to make the shift to a low carbon economy as efficient as possible.

• Strategic investors should discriminate between sectors and companies on the basis of their opportunities and risks.
• Businesses should incorporate climate change in their core strategy and investment decisions.
• Policy makers should work with business and investors now to create a policy framework which rewards early action and an efficient transition to a low carbon economy

Mr Delay added:
"We have a short window of opportunity to act but at present business and investor actions are way out of step with the need to tackle climate change. They must be urgently re-aligned by developing new business and investment strategies and by working with governments to develop policy frameworks that reward early and effective action to rapidly reduce carbon emissions."

The impact of tackling climate change will vary by sector. A quantification of the risks and opportunities identified in each sector studied are outlined below.  We categorise four ways in which value could be created or destroyed: sector transformation, upward demand shift, downward demand shift and increased volatility.



Sector Maximum company value creation opportunity for a company that prepares Maximum company value at risk for a company that fails to adapt
Aluminium 30% 65%
Automotive 60% 65%
Oil and gas (exploration and production) 0% 35%
Oil and gas (refining) 7% 30%
Consumer electronics 35% 7%
Building materials 80% 20%
Beer 0% 15%


 


 
 
Footnotes
 
Notes to Editors

For interviews with Carbon Trust spokespeople or for a copy of the report, please call the Carbon Trust Press Office on 020 7544 3100.

The analysis looked at the Aluminium, Auto, Beer, Building Materials, Consumer Electronics and Oil and Gas sectors. These six sectors have an estimated market value of $7 trillion.

The percentage value creation opportunity or risk is defined as the relative increase or reduction in value of a company which may result on the move to a low carbon economy, based on the net present value of its anticipated future cash flows. Any resulting shift in company value will depend on its level of preparation and sector exposure.

The Carbon Trust

• The Carbon Trust is an independent company set up by government in response to the threat of climate change, to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by working with organisations to reduce carbon emissions and develop commercial low carbon technologies. The Carbon Trust works with UK business and the public sector through its work in five complementary areas: insights, solutions, innovations, enterprises and investments. Together these help to explain, deliver, develop, create and finance low carbon enterprise.
• The Carbon Trust is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and Invest Northern Ireland.
• For more information on the Carbon Trust visit
http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/ or call the Carbon Trust Advice Line on 0800 085 2005.