Getting to Green
An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.
June 9, 2008 - 12:12pm
According to Newsday (and reported worldwide), IBM and folks at Los Alamos have just raised the bar on computing power, with a $13 million, 20,000 processor, supercomputer nicknamed "Roadrunner". The thing can perform 1 quadrillion calculations (floating point operations, for those who care) in a single second. From a sustainability standpoint, the bad news is that this single computer draws about about 4 megawatts of power -- more or less the same amount of energy as a modern railroad locomotive.
June 5, 2008 - 9:24pm
So, given my evolving understanding of issues of scale, have I lost sight of what Graham Cliff calls "the substance of sustainability"? I hope not. I don't think so. If I have, I'm hoping you'll help me correct that. Cliff properly points out that climate change has been (and continues to be) caused by "profligate waste for very short term gain". He's absolutely right.
June 3, 2008 - 7:19pm
So, the Warner-Lieberman bill is finally getting to the Senate floor, and (after managing to ignore it for the entire presidential primary season), the press has rediscovered climate change in a political context. Last week, I happened across a pretty good article by Daniel Weiss, titled"Ten Industry Arguments Against Action on Global Warming ... and Why They Are Wrong."
June 2, 2008 - 1:49pm
My position at Greenback U. was created as a direct result of our president's signature on the Presidents Climate Commitment. My primary duties in the past year or so have been (1) making sure we took the requisite two immediate actions to mitigate emissions, and (2) completing our campus greenhouse gas inventory. What caused me to apply for this position was my conviction that human activity is a significant driver (whether or not it's the only driver) of global warming.
May 31, 2008 - 11:05am
OK, so it's not particularly related to higher ed, but I have to remark on the White House's belated release of a report to the effect that global warming is real, and human activity is substantially responsible. There are no news-worthy facts or conclusions in it, but this isn't an administration that reaches conclusions based on facts, nor that is comfortable with the idea of "news" as separate from propaganda.
May 30, 2008 - 9:25am
Solving the sustainability problem is going to require using new technologies, in the broadest sense of that term. ("Technology" simply being the method by which you do something -- high-tech, low-tech or otherwise.) Over the next few decades, advanced societies will need to go through another major technology shift.
May 29, 2008 - 10:43am
This morning's newspaper features an Associated Press article about a Brookings Institution ranking of the 100 largest US cities, based on per capita carbon emissions. The worst of the bunch is said to be Lexington, KY, with 3.46 tons per person as of 2005. My first reaction was total dismay. The article, the headline, and the accompanying chart all use the term "carbon footprint", and if we could get the average carbon footprint per US citizen down to 3.46 tons, we'd be in pretty good shape. The actual carbon footprint for an average US resident is on the order of 20 tons.
May 27, 2008 - 3:22pm
Over the three-day weekend, I managed to do a little reading. One of the magazines that I actually pay money to receive (as opposed to all the campus-administration-related rags I get at the office for free) is NewScientist. It's not "new" in the sense of "new age", the magazine's on volume 198. (Of course, it's published in the UK, and it's newer than the New Forest, so I guess everything's relative.)
May 23, 2008 - 6:19pm
OK, so I've got the numbers. We've completed Greenback's greenhouse gas inventory for academic years 2001 - 2007. The report goes out to various groups and bodies on campus next month. There aren't any huge surprises in it (one medium-sized one, which we'll discuss later). Running the buildings on campus is the biggest energy hog/CO2 emitter (by a lot), with transportation second. Other sources of emissions are trivial, by comparison.