Sunday, September 29, 2013

The energy footprint of online avatars

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Are virtual worlds environmentally sustainable? Based on such thoughts, Nicholas Carr wrote a blog post some time ago, in December 2006, about how much power we use when we use virtual worlds. It provoked strong reactions, not the least because the title of his text was "Avatars consume as much electricity as Brazilians". Still years and years laters, texts (such as this one :-) about avatars, eletricity, climate impact and Brazilians show up like a jack-in-the-box. I will here go through Nick’s line of reasoning and the criticism he encountered before I go on and analyze the ways in which we can think about these issues. It would be nice to eventually come around and write about the power consumption and carbon footprint of PCs and data centers. Computer servers consume one percent or so of the world electricity supply. That might not sound like much, but their power consumption grows by 15-20% per year (which is equivalent to a fivefold increase in 10 years). 



At the time when Nick Carr posted is question, the virtual world Second Life was visited by somewhere between 10 000 and 15 000 avatars at any one time. To run it all, no less than 4000 servers were required. In the absence of actual figures as to the electricity consumption of the company that runs Second Life - Linden Lab - Nick made a few assumptions: 
- Each server in Linden Lab’s data center burns through 200 watts and then uses an additional 50 watts to cool the data center. 
- Every home computer that is connected to Second Life uses 120 watts. 



This would mean that the 4 000 servers in question use (4 000 servers) x (250 watts) x (24 hours) = 24 000 kWh (kilowatt hours) each day. Additionally, the power consumption of all home computers is (12 500 PCs on average) x (120 watts) x (24 hours) = 36 000 kWh each day. Altogether these computers and servers would thus use 60 000 kWh per day and if we divide this electricity consumption between 12 500 avatars, each of them would use 4.8 kWh for each 24 hours of existence in the game/virtual world Second Life. 



How much is 4.8 kWh per day then? Well, it adds up over the days and months and becomes 1750 kWh per year which is comparable with the electricity consumption per capita in Brazil (according to the 2003 data that Nick had access to).



In the ensuing discussion, Nick was quickly corrected by a person who was employed by Linden Lab. Previously, each computer server ran a "region" in the game but now, a server may run up to four "regions". The correct figures for Linden Lab’s electricity consumption is therefore (1 000 servers) x (225 watts) x (24 hours) = 5 400 kWh per day - that is, less than 1/4 of the original estimate (which, however was based on a fuzzy statement by the CEO of Linden Lab). The new figures gives that an avatar consumes approximately 1 200 kWh per year instead of 1 750 kWh, and that Linden Lab’s servers account for a relatively small part of that power consumption while the home computers account for more than 85% of the total power consumption. 



Almost six months later (May 2007), Nick is once more corrected when a new, better-informed (?) employee from Linden Lab presents new figures. To begin with, the average number of avatars are now 30 000, and the number of servers has risen to 2 000. In addition, both servers and home PCs draw significantly more power when the run Second Life. Now, Linden Lab’s power consumption is instead (2 000 servers) x (500 watts) x (24 hours) = 24 000 kWh. The rule of thumb is that for every watt that a server uses, the same amount of energy is needed to cool the data center where the server is housed. Power consumption at home is estimated to be (30 000 computers) x (250 watts) x (24 hours) = 180 000 kWh per day. In total, these 204 000 kWh divided into 30 000 avatars becomes 6.8 kWh per day. That is equivalent to 2 500 kWh per year and the home computer accounts for almost 90% of the total power consumption. Latvia, Romania and Argentina are a few countries that had a power consumption in the neighborhood of 2 500 kWh per capita in 2005. In Sweden, we used more than 15 000 kWh per person in 2005.



Taking all of this conflict (and constantly changing) information into account, what conculsions can be drawn so far?



- The Internet changes constantly. To get current figures is like chasing a moving target. What are the figures for Second Life right now? According to the latest figures (Jan 2010) there are currently 18 million accounts (avatars) registered in Second Life, but only 750 000 of them (5%) log in to Second Life each month. These avatars spent a total of 118 million hours (!) in Second Life during the third quarter of 2009.



- Information about the number of servers and their power consumption varies widely and therefore seems not be that reliable (see above). Power consumption can obviously not have been one of the heavier costs when running virtual worlds - or they would have kept better track of the figures. The same has probably been true also for other companies that rely on data centers such as Google, Flickr, Blizzard etc., but things might be changing now as the energy prices have been marching upwards during the last couple of years.



- A computer at work uses 120-150 watts, but a computer that runs Second Life (or World of Warcraft or any other computer games) can use up to twice as much power as these applications make use of your computer's capabilities to the max. Data center use a lot of power, but you home computer that utilizes these services draw a lot more and get less work (computer cycles) done per unit of energy used.



- It is difficult to determine the usefulness (or damage) of using virtual worlds. On the one hand, you use a lot less energy (and generate considerably less pollution) if you cancel a trip and instead meet in a virtual world. But a computer uses a lot of electricity - if the option is an electricity-free activity (take a walk, talk to a neighbor, help your children do their homework). 



- Ideas are hard to kill. Although Nick’s figures were refuted and modified immediately, the "meme" about Second Life and the electricity consumption of Brazilians remains alive and pops up now and then to the chagrin of some.



The main objections raised against Nick’s argument above was that no real person is connected to Second Life 24 hours a day and that Second Life actually had 700 000 "active user" (whatever that means) at the time. So the power consumption of each person who used Second Life would have been just a 50th of Nick’s original calculation. Furthermore, any computer that is used for 24 hours a day 365 days per year uses more energy than the average Brazilians whatever that computer is used for (playing Second Life or doing something entirely different). 



Both ways of looking at this problem is correct, but these different perspectives choses to focus on slightly different things. Any individual physical person who plays Second Life did that for less than an hour a day on average and thus uses a moderate amount of energy. But each avatar in Second Life has the same (or higher) power consumption (per hour, per day or per year) as many people on earth have. 



I think Nicholas perspective is interesting, not the least because some information technology pundits sometimes tend to completely ignore that computers are physical objects that have required resources (raw materials, energy) for their manufacture, that consume electricity throughout their lifetime, and that one day will be scrapped/recycled. Computers obviously have an ecological footprint and the size of that footprint should naturally be explored further.

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The energy footprint of Google searches


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I like Google. Slowly, step by step, I have started to use more and more services from Google. It started with searches, then continued with Gmail, Google Earth and a number of other applications and services (including Blogger, which was bought by Google in 2003 and which provides the technical platform for this blog).

I have found almost all the services I have tried useful (for myself or at least for someone else), but it is now time to scrutinize Google through the lenses of my peak oil glasses. Even if I primarily write about Google in the text that follows, “Google” could mean any business competing with Google, or even the entire Internet with all the services it provides to us in our daily lives.

In the beginning of this year, the young Harvard physicist Alex Wissner-Gross claimed that Google searches contribute significantly to CO2 emissions. The angle that the newspaper chose was that two Google searches produce the same amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide emissions) as boiling a kettle of water for a cup of tea, and that Google searches thus have “a definite environmental impact”. More specifically, Wissner-Gross claimed that one Google search generates around 7 grams of CO2 emissions. The carbon dioxide originates from producing electricity to run your computer and to run Google’s data centers. A few grams of CO2 may not sound like much if not for the fact that the number of Google searches each day exceeds two hundred million searches, and may be closer to one billion according to some sources

Wissner-Gross further claimed that the architecture of Google’s search engines was an important factor as each Google search is distributed to several data centers across the world that then compete against each other to find and return the fastest answer. What you gain in speed thus comes at a cost of higher energy consumption caused by all the extra computer capacity (unused, misused or redundant) built into the larger system.

To no one's surprise, Google rejected this interpretation and stated that the company is ”among the most efficient of all internet search providers” because their data centers are relatively energy efficient compared to "average" data centers. Google furthermore claimed that the number 7 grams CO2 per search is ”many times too high” and that the true numbers are 0,0003 kWh of energy and 0,2 grams of CO2 emissions per search. This small amount of energy is in parity with the energy burned by the human body in 10 seconds, and the CO2 emissions are thousands of times lower than the CO2 emissions caused by the average car traveling only a few kilometers. Another powerful formulation from Google is that “In the time it takes to do a Google search, your personal computer will likely use more energy than we will use to answer your query”.

Another comparison is with the numbers from this report (pdf) which claims that each spam mail ending up in your mail box on average generates 0,3 grams of CO2 emissions (the same amount as if you drive your car 1 meter). Since the number of spam e-mails sent during 2008 was approximately 62 000 000 000 000 (62 trillions), the total amount of CO2 emissions caused by spam is not insignificant and more precisely corresponds with the amount of CO2 emitted by a car driving around the world 1,6 million times. If we assume that there are about 800 million cars on Earth, then all the spam sent during 2008 corresponds to the accumulated CO2 emissions from all the world’s cars driving 80 kilometers each. I am not sure whether this is much or little in a big-picture perspective, but I have no problems being judgmental and deeming spam e-mails 100% unnecessary, and now for yet another reason. Where are the technological and social solutions to stop them`

I saw a reference in January 2008 stating that a "bizarre" record was broken one day in October the preceeding year (2007). During that one day, more than 160 000 million spam e-mails - roughly two dozen per man, woman and child on Earth - were sent. Comparing this number with the total number of spam e-mails send during 2008 (see above), we find that the record from 2007 is actually lower than the daily average of spam e-mails sent during 2008...

Other experts who have made claims about the energy use of (Google) searches state that CO2 emissions are between 1 and 10 grams (depending on whether you have to turn on your computer first), or between 7 and 10 grams (if you use your computer for 15 minutes). The Times of London, which published the original article (above), informed its readers a few days later that the newspaper accepted Google's official claim that one (simple) search (taking less than a second) produces only 0.2 grams of CO2, and that the "search" refererred to in the article involved several attempts over a teme period of several minutes. In a clarification by the physicist Wissner- Gross, he states that he never mentioned Google specifically, that the example with the kettle of water was not of his origin, and, between the lines, that the newspaper made a hen out of a feather based on the interview with him.

Maybe the number 7 grams of CO2 emissions per search originally came from this blog (May 2007)? We should anyway probably take Google's numbers with a pinch of salt since the company probably counts only the marginal cost of performing one extra search, and not the nergy cost for temporarily inactive servers, support and maintenance, and the distributet and thus reduntand work being done in several data centers for each search. Also, the idea that badly written inefficient software code wastes electricity and thus has a bigger ecological footpring than neat code is thought-provoking (although I do not mean to imply that this is a problem for Google).

The "news" about Google searches and kettles of water quickly spread to several newspapers, but seem to have been a storm in a teacup when viewed in the read mirror. So let us step back and think about the larger issues that this text touches upon. Using computers has an environmental impact. What we read and look at when we use our computers is stored on many servers that are all connected by computer networks. All of these parts require electricity (personal computers the most, servers and data centers the least, and computer networks in-between).

The electricity that we use for these purposes is generated mainly from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas (85% of the energy consumed on Earth is produced from fossil fuels). when Google states that each search generates 0.2 gram of CO2 emissions, they surely count only the energy costs for their enormous-but-highly-efficient data centers, whereas the big energy thief is right in front of your nose - your own computer at home or at work. The use of a personal computer may cause CO2 emissions of somewhere between 40 and 80 grams of CO2 per hour, and if you include this energy consumption it is easy to reach 7 gram of CO2 for an advanced search that constitutes of several steps.

As I wrote in the beginning of this text, "Google" could in this context represent something much bigger than the company itself and it is somehow difficult to understand why exactly Google was singled out for its energy consumption. In general, Google should be acknowledged for their energy policies and for their lobbying in Washington for cleaner energy sources. A few searches on the Internet (there we go again :-) reveal several examples of interesting and good inititatives from Google, like their report "Clean energy 2030 and their work on RE<C (renewable energy less than coal), where the goal is to produce renewable energy cheaper than electricity generated by coal plants. According to Google, the company's data centers use only half as much energy as the average data centers.

The global IT sector is responsible for 2% of the global CO2 emissions (according to the firm Gartner Inc.). It may not sound much, but it is as much as the global airline industry emits, and in contrast to an airline industry in crisis, the IT sector is growing rapidly on a global basis. Many actors consider numbers about energy use business secrets, and for exampe Google does not want to tell how many or how big their data centers are, or how many servers they own.

Google clims that using their search engine on the larger whole saves money and natural resources, since a Google search replaces more energy demanding activities - we no longer have to use as many car trips, time, paper or ink to have our questions answered. This is a valid argument, but it assumes that we are doing more or less the same things (the same number of searches) as before, but now in a more resource-efficient way. But we obviously did not perform a hundred million searches per day before Google and other search engines existed. Furthermore, we burn energy by doing a lot of new things with our computers which could not be done easily - or at all - before:

We may be obsessive about turning off the lights when we leave a room, but at the same time we may happily spend hours clicking around online, oblivious of the electricity lighting up our screen, heating our chip, and powering ad cooling the data centers we're connected to. (It's true that in some cases Internet use may substitute for other activities, such as travel, that would consume more energy, but let's not kid ourselves: the vast majority of computer and Internet use represents additional energy consumption.) How many Twitterheads think about their electricity use before they tweet? Not many. How many blogger think about it before they blog? Not this one.

More interesting than to examine Google in particular is to think about the energy cost of computer use in general. Alex Wissner-Gross (again) has calculated that each second of watching a web page generates 0.02 grams of CO2 emissions. This applies to "static" website content - if you watch animations or video, that number quickly becomes ten times higher. The rule of thumb is of course that the more you use a computer, the more energy you consume, and some activities (playing computer games, watching movies) are more energy intensive than others (reading a document, working with a word processor). Regarding the energy consumption of avatars, I wrote the following almost one year ago:

It is difficult to determine the benefit (or damage) of using virtual worlds. On the one hand you use considerably less energy (and generate a lot less in terms of CO2 emissions) if you cancel a trip and set up a meeting in a virtual world. A computer on the other hand uses a lot of electricity compared to non-electricity-consuming activites (go for a walk, talk with a friend, help your children with their homework).

To play World of Warcraft several hours a day can hardly be described as an activity which "replaces traveling". It is more probable that playing such a game for a long time increases the chance that you will make new (faraway) friends whom you would later like to visit (sometimes by hopping on an intercontinental flight). I am here walking on a minefield of trying to differentiate between "good" and "bad" uses of computers and the Internet. I prefer to avoid this particular discussion at this particular point in time, but might return to the issue later. We can at least for sure state that computers and galloping use of electricity may be problematic in the long run - a characteristic shared by all types of exponential development: "If not addressed, unlimited, ever-increasing compute performance will ultimately consume all the energy on the planet".

I think it is definitely legitimate to critically investigate the energy consumption and CO2 footprint of using for example YouTube, Twitter and virtual worlds. Even without approaching the issue in a normative manner (making claims about "good" or "bad" use), one may thus find clues as to which activities could become painfully expensive if the electricity and energy prices will rise and keep on rising in the future. According to a vice president at Sun Microsystems, it is totally clear that "We need more data centes, we need more servers. Each server burns more watts than the previous generation and each watt costs more".

Something to further take into account are proportions. A person who uses a computer one hour per day (40 to 80 grams of CO2 emissions per day) generates emissions somewhere in the range of 15 to 30 kilos per year. A hardcore computer user who uses his/her computer 10 hours per day thus generates something between 150 to 300 kilos of CO2 per year. Is this a lot? Driving an average car 1000 km/620 miles (a single round trip between Stockholm and Gothenburg) generates approximately 200 kilos of CO2. This by no means absolves us from caring about the energy use of computers, but it hints at the fact that the potential of reducing CO2 emissions in the computer/IT sector is - for now - limited compared to the potential of reducing our energy use by changing our habits of travelling.

Friday, September 27, 2013

CO2 emissions per country and per capita

I would like to share an image I came across while trying to research for my "great idea"-project.
This image shows the difference of carbon emissions calculated by country (on the left), and carbon emission per capita per nation (on the right) . If you would like to study this in more details, you can find the original image here: http://d1435t697bgi2o.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/mmw_CO2footprint_111510.pdf

I think this really illustrates that we in Sweden (for instance) can think of ourselves as very small emitters compared to the giants of the world, but if we compare to what we use per person we are still not the worst, but there is room for lots of improvement (compare with China).







I also came across this youtube clip that does a great job visualizing how much carbon dioxide is emitted from a city (in this case New York). It is quite a lot, and this goes on all the time....


Feedback on the use of this blog

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Hello.

I'd just like to say that the quality of the blog posts this far has been high, but the only problem is that there are too few of them!

May I suggest that some of you might want to reuse the texts you handed in for this week's seminar and reformulate them into blog posts. If you discussed your idea at the seminar yesterday, you might then also want to update your contributions taking yesterday's discussion into account.

Johan B just did that and he set the bar very high - you don't have to be quite as ambitious as he was to gain mine and Elina's approval!

/Daniel
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

A “Software Energy Footprint” (SEF) standard for measuring and comparing software energy effectiveness

Hi there!
Here I will present and further elaborate on my idea for the second seminar, explaining the background and argue the feasibility of implementing a standard for measuring energy effectiveness of software. The text is made up of my initial thoughts, extended with what was discussed on the seminar and also combined with a few elaborations.

A “Software Energy Footprint” (SEF) standard for measuring and comparing software energy effectiveness


The worldwide energy consumption of networks, personal computers and data centers has grown from 4% in 2007 to 4,7% in 2012, not taking into account the use and recharging of mobile phones and tablets (Overview of ICT energy consumption, 2013). This increased amount of energy demand as a result of ICT usage will become a challenge in a future with less abundant energy resources.

As we are still highly dependent on the use of non-renewable fossil fuel for extracting energy, there is a strong relation between carbon emission and energy consumption. Attempts to place focus on carbon emission has for example been made in the food industry, by introducing certain certifications such as “Svenskt Sigill” and “KRAV”. For a food product to be eligible for such a certificate, the producer has to reach certain criteria regarding how the food is produced. A more general form of these certifications is the so-called “Product Carbon Footprint” or “PCF” for short. The overall purpose of these different ways of labeling products as more or less “eco-friendly” is to enforce the consumer into making better (or “greener”) decisions and thus pushing the producers into improving their production methods etc. A known difficulty in measuring such a PCF is that it is hard to accurately analyze every step of the product lifetime and production.

In the context of ICT hardware there exists similar certifications such as “Energy Star” that promote energy efficient ICT products and the likes. A Swedish example is "TCO" which prompts hardware producers to take both a social and environmental responsibility. Although this is all well, the promoting energy effectiveness of ICT software is not as prevalent.

My proposal/idea is to try implementing an energy efficiency standard for ICT software, to further improve software energy effectiveness in the future. While some areas within software development do take energy effectiveness into account, the reasons are often not based on making a smaller PCF or being more sustainable. Take mobile and web development as examples. Making energy efficient and optimized software for mobile platforms (smartphones and tablets) is a critical factor in achieving user satisfaction. If the application drains the battery life of your phone in a few minutes, no one will use the application. Similarly, if a web page is way to large (in terms of downloaded source code) resulting in slow loading times, then users will not want to visit the page.

The case is different if we take a look at stationary computers, such as PCs and servers. Plugged into the wall-socket, we do not have the same energy-use constraints as for mobile devices. Thus energy efficient software will not emerge as a “natural” requirement in such a context and energy efficiency may instead be traded for even greater processing power/computations. As we are currently moving closer and closer towards a “future in the cloud”, where most of the heavy lifting (computations requiring much processing power) is done remotely on a plugged-in server, the need and incentive for developing energy efficiency software might even be decreasing.

There has been, and currently are, a few projects looking at the possibilities to accurately measure energy consumption in relation to software. One research project measured and compared the energy use of loading different web sites using different web browsers by connecting sensors to various hardware components (SEFLab: A Lab for Measuring Software Energy Footprints, 2013). They were able to detect significant variations in energy usage, indicating the importance of software design. One of the greatest challenges in measuring the energy use is that different hardware components act in different ways and that the distribution of computations may vary.

Two other projects attempt to bypass this issue using software-based measurements and by modeling the hardware in a virtual machine. This way, the energy use of software can be monitored on a process-level. The Microsoft “Joulemeter” and “PowerAPI” would enable custom software energy benchmarking in order to place a certain software on a standardized “Software Energy Footprint” (SEF) scale. Software developers would then be able to certify their software and/or get a SEF rating from a trusted source performing such benchmarking, indicating that the software is written in a sustainable manner. A high SEF-rating and a certificate would hopefully encourage consumers to prefer these products, both in terms of making a responsible choice and getting software that (at least for mobile computers and devices) will increase the battery lifetime. Such a certificate/rating could easily be added to appstores, both for the mobile and the PC market. An increased focus on developing and using energy efficient software might be able to somewhat reduce both out ICT energy needs and ICT energy consumption in the future.

There is of course a variance in average energy consumption between different categories of software. It would for example be quite meaningless to compare the energy effectiveness of say the game "Minesweeper" and the game "Battlefied 4", or comparing "Microsoft Word" and the clustered processes behind "NCBI Blast". Thus one would need to define various categories that then could be more realistically benchmarked against (for example comparing different browsers against one another, Microsoft Word vs. Open Office etc.).

As I see it, there are a few positive drivers that could enforce an increased focus on software energy efficiency. For example, utilizing the open source community would be a great way of circulating energy efficient code. Energy efficient code snippets and solutions could easily be shared (and iteratively improved) across the Internet. Calling upon the "hacker spirit" (mentioned in Zapico, J. (2013). The hacker ethic, openness and sustainability), an internal driving force for developing good software already exists.

Speaking of "hackers", Green Hackathons could be arranged with energy efficient software development in focus. A goal could be to solve a specific task in the most energy efficient way possible.

Another good (and very much practical) idea would be to integrate energy efficiency benchmarking in the compiler (I believe it was Mårten Cederman who pointed this out). Similar functionality exist already in IDE's such as Apple's Xcode, which has the ability to monitor resources such as CPU and present this graphically to the developer in real-time. Still, there is no way of knowing how much energy that is used. A energy-usage monitor integrated in the compiler would serve as a must-have tool for developers trying to optimize the energy effectiveness of their algorithms and solutions.

Taking on the economical perspective (or "lens"), a more thought-through development process will likely take more time, increasing the cost for such "green" software in terms of time and money. Nevertheless, considering enterprise applications that might be deployed for one or several years, the reduced cost in energy as a result of more energy efficient software would probably dwarf the initial increase in cost for the software. Thus there could be economical benefits for both developers and consumers.

Now, this became quite like what is usually described as "big wall of text" but I hope someone found it interesting. It would be fun to hear if anyone has got any ideas for further elaborating the proposal or perhaps find more challenges in making this real! =)


References

Lannoo, Bart, Lambert, Sofie et. al. 2013. Overview of ICT energy consumption, FP7-288021, The EINS Consortium, Network of Excellence in Internet Science

Klimatmärkning av livsmedel http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Documents/publikationer/978-91-620-6355-9.pdf, presented in januari 2010.

Ferreira, Miguel A. et. al., SEFLab: A Lab for Measuring Software Energy Footprints
http://www.sig.eu/en/Research/Key%20publications/Archive/1285/SEFLab--A-Lab-for-Measuring-Software-Energy-Footprints.html

SEFLab, website: http://www.seflab.com

Monday, September 23, 2013

Can musicians spread knowledge and interest regarding the climate issue?

Hello!

Yesterday's Agenda (22/9) on svt2 showed a final piece abut the climate issue and that the global interest regarding climate issues unfortunately has cooled.

 Some people are in the belief that new measures need to be taken in order to make the climate issue a hot topic again and that this could be done through musicians and bands spreading the message through their music.

I thought this was a very interesting perspective as music is a good way to reach a large part of the world as music is considered a globally understood communication method. It is also a good tool when reaching the younger generation, who really should be aware/caring about the future of our earth, the most.

Just like Bono in U2 is well known for his music, he is equally well known for his activeness in philanthropic work. I definitely think that using musicians and other prominent figures, which can influence a large number of the population, is a good marketing strategy for getting the topic of climate issues spinning again. Some may even discuss if it’s in the duty of public figures to set an example when it comes to environmental issues in the same way as they are expected to act as role models in other areas of behavior.

If you’re interested, the report regarding the climate begins at 33.55 in the following clip!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Soot - The warm blanket that makes the mountains sweat

Oh… so I got your attention? Great! Well I recently read an article published by NASA in which they summarized a conclusion they've come to draw when it comes to glacier retreat. By studying old and really old (ancient) cores of ice throughout history, before the industrial revolution and beyond, they actually found some interesting trends:

1) The coal emitted from big industrial factories all over the world of course polluted the air with coal particles - aka soot. These particles then spread with the winds and some of it landed in the cold, snowy parts of the world: the alps.


Bernese Alps 2012
Since black carbon is very sunlight-absorbing it can actually absorb quite a lot of heat in contrast to snow who deflects sunlight pretty good. The findings of black carbon was confirmed in the extracted ice cores and NASA scientist then actually concluded that the glaciers in the European alps had begun to melt more rapidly just because of it being covered with a black carbon blanket (so to speak). Maybe not that visible to the naked eye, but highly effective to the mean temperature on the snowy surface, thus effectively melting the ice away. Oops.

2) The main point here is that the industrial revolution is an anthropogenic factor to the risen mean temperature of the earth but it doesn't mainly come from the actual increase in mean temperature but rather from the carbon particles lying in the snow absorbing sunlight heating it up to melting degrees.

I'm posting this article since all this leads me to believe that we are one step closer to realizing our available options to actually make this climate issue a bit more bearable. By knowing what is causing our glaciers to melt (which is a serious issue) we can take stronger and more concrete measures to actually make a real difference. Since I find it highly unlikely that the mean temperature will drop in the nearest future, it feels good to know that the "end of glaciers" as we know it doesn't Only depend on that fact.

Additionally I think this article is highly relevant to this course since it shines new light upon the issue with the climate and what drivers are contributing to the glaciers melting. We all have talked about the carbon dioxide and its effect on the ozone. But in contrast to that discussion, this article actually redirect some of the "blame" to other factors than just an increase in global mean temperature.

What can we do to investigate this issue further? What is the next step? Is it possible to filter out the carbon emissions more effectively to halt this "carbon blanket"?

What are your hopes/reflections on this discovery?

Original article: HERE

- Image is borrowed from the original article

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mon 23 webinar "How ICT is driving a sustainable future"

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This is probably not supposed to be for students, but since it's on Monday and they sent a reminder to me... Last day to register is on Friday and you register here.

If you attend, please report back - preferably through a blog post here!

/Daniel


Reminder- GeSI Webinar  

Towards a SMARTer 2020 - How ICT is driving a sustainable future       

23rd September 2013  
17:00 - 18:00  CET    
Join us for the webinar 'Towards a SMARTer 2020 - How ICT is driving a sustainable future' on Monday 23rd September 2013 at 17:00-18:00 CET. 

Launched in 2012, the Smarter 2020 report highlighted that the use of ICT could save 9.1GtCO2e of harmful greenhouse gases from being emitted worldwide. The study identified GHG abatement potential from ICT-enabled solutions across six sectors of the economy including power, transportation, manufacturing, consumer and service, agriculture, and buildings.  

Since the launch of the Smarter 2020 report, GeSI members have been developing these enablement solutions and working to reduce emissions in their operations and those of their partners and customers.  

This webinar will showcase a number of GeSI members' carbon emission reduction initiatives to date, including the use of ICT technology to enable customers to measure and reduce their emissions, fleet fuel efficiency improvements, energy management systems and smart metering.


Agenda 
  • Introduction - Alice Prudhoe, GeSI 
  • Case Study 1: Building on SMARTer2020 - BT's Net Good 3:1 vision and goal - Gabrielle Giner, BT 
  • Case Study 2: KPN 1-2-1 program & energy savings calculator - Marga Blom, KPN 
  • Case Study 3: How machine-to-machine technology delivers fleet fuel efficiency - Chris Lloyd, Verizon 
  • Case Study 4: How ALU machine-to-machine technology supports smart grids and enables new energy efficiency services - Katrina Destree-Cochran, Alcatel-Lucent
  • Case Study 5: Smart metering in Australia - Matilda Gennvi Gustafsson, Ericsson 
  • Questions 

Registration
Space is limited. Please register here until 20th September 2013.
Contact
Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)
p: +32 2 282 8442

About GeSI
The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is a strategic partnership of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and organisations committed to creating and promoting technologies and practices that foster economic, environmental and social sustainability. For more information, see www.gesi.org.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The story of stuff

I guess I will be making the first contribution (or not) to this blog. Took me some time to find how to post but now finally I located where to do it!

However. I've been interested in garbage for some time after doing a project together with some friend here at KTH in another course: Prescense architecture. During that project I encountered a video on youtube which spured an insterest in why we produce so much garbage in western society. This video explains in a really simple way where products come from and touches on the subject on why it is not sustainable to continue living as consumerists in such a way as we have become accustomed to. As I said, this video spured an interest, and I hope that you will also find it interesting too.

The video can be found HERE

By the way, this is the second time writing this post. My neighborhood suffered a power out where even the water pressure dropped considerably. This happened just after watching the video that Pargman linked on his post on the course blog. It really freaked me out, felt like the future had already come, ha ha! I can really recommend it for those of you who haven't yet seen it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Regarding this blog and bonuspoints for the year 2013

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This is the very short blog post that specifies what you can get bonus points for. There is a longer blogpost from last year if you want to get more ideas and instructions.

You can get two bonus points in the course for blog posts or comments that add value and quality. This means that you should explain why we should read your text and the text/link/blog/video/whatever you link or refer to. You should thus connect it to the course, and you should elaborate on the topic. It's not really good enough to write a short text, basically saying "look what I found on the Internet". We know you can do better!

Here is an example of a bonus point-worthy blog post from last year.

Here is an example of a less bonus point-worthy blog post from last year, a post like this will not get bonus points this year. Here is another example - a really funny comic strip. It would definitely have gotten a bonus point with some nifty elaboration rather than just posting the uncommented picture.

Do comment on this blog post if you have any questions. We will comment on some of your early blog posts here in order to provide you with feedback and direction as to what "adds value" and what constitutes "quality".

/Daniel & Elina
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Welcome students of 2013!

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Throughout the course Sustainability and Media Technology, all of us will together come across many different and interesting examples of issues that can be related to topics that the course covers. This blog is where you post information about what you come across so that we all can learn about and benefit from the information that we all together come across. 60+ pair of eyes are better than 2!

All students who take the course will have received an invitation to their KTH mail address to become contributors to this blog. You now all have the authority to post texts here.

Feel free to post whatever you come across that you think is interesting and that has a relationship to things we have read, or seen, or heard in the course, or that in general is related to issues of sustainability and media technology (and ICT)!

Also feel free to check out others' posts and please also comment on them. Hopefully some blog entries will generate lively discussions!
This blog was used for the same purpose last year as well and we thus build upon their work. If you want to, you can check out earlier blog posts - posted by last year's students - to get inspiration.
Daniel Pargman & Elina Eriksson