[LINK] Carbon Neutral Linux Computers, Canberra, 21 November 2007

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Tue Nov 20 18:45:02 AEDT 2007

Stephen Wilson wrote:
> On 19/11/2007 Tom Worthington wrote:
>> A study sponsored by the Australian Computer Society has shown that 
>> computers and telecommunications equipment in Australia generated 
>> 7.94Mt of carbon dioxide in 2005, 1.52% of national emissions. 
> Really?  Computers don't emit greenhouse gasses -- power stations do!
<pedant> OK, so someone could have written "contributed X to Australia's 
carbon load" </pedant>
>> Tom Worthington [will] demonstrate a new low power "thin client" 
>> computer using a "carbon neutral" processor.
> I am all for energy efficiency; we need to do much more to cut energy 
> waste (and light pollution while we're at it).  But surely the fad for 
> "carbon neutrality" in the home and office is blame shifting.
To a degree, yes, but then again: people are insufferably blithe about 
things that used to matter: turning all the lights on, all the time, 
seems to be something you do to prove you're rich. Which was fine before 
people knew they were not just wasting their own money but also the 
planet ...
> If we transitioned to clean energy sources, then (within reason) we 
> could all run air conditioners and computers, guilt free. 
Agreed. I'd love to see a decent calculation - ie, one that came from a 
neutral rather than an interested source. What I see is numbers from the 
mining industry proving that you can't do national clean energy sources, 
and numbers from the green side proving that you *can* do national-scale 
clean energy.

Rough number: 5,500 petajoules in 2003-2004 (source: 
The largest solar power station in the country right now is 154 MW, 
which equates to 4.85 petajoules per year (conversion source:

So to meet 2003-2004 consumption needs 1,135 solar power stations equal 
to the largest now in Australia. I'm not saying either "don't bother" or 
"can't be done", but without requirements you don't have a design.

Between all-fossil and all-solar, there's going to be a transition 
period, in which reducing consumption is the most effective approach. 
Reducing consumption IMO means, for a start, getting rid of electric hot 
water, encouraging personal solar installation, and a host of other 
things. The computer industry could do much to make things more 
efficient. Some of my personal wishlist:

- fast boot computers that users don't mind switching off.
- fast-boot broadband NTUs that can switch themselves off when idle, and 
only become active when asked to communicate (why have a 100% on cycle 
for a 25% duty cycle?).

> The cynic in me suggests that the carbon neutrality craze is driven by 
> the fossil fuel industry, and weak willed governments, addicted to 
> mined energy. It's a smokescreen. We even have reality TV shows (even 
> on our ABC for godsake!) that put the onus on humble householders to 
> save the planet. They lull the public into the complacency of doing 
> their bit, while Rome burns.
True. But doing what I can with light switches, and hoping for more 
efficient computers, doesn't mean I'm successfully lulled ...

> Cheers,
> Stephen Wilson
> Lockstep
> www.lockstep.com.au
> -------------------
> * ICT Secrets of Innovation Finalist 2007
> * Anthill / PwC Cool Company Finalist 2007
> -------------------
> Lockstep Consulting provides independent specialist advice and analysis
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