Comparison in green

Two reports, on the same page of theregister on the same day capture the essence of the green computing debate: one is a hysterical misreport, the other serious journalism - but the message is the same: don't believe a word, and don't spend a nickel unless doing that saves you at least six cents. In cash. Today.

Last Wednesday The register carried two green related reports. One, headlined Canadian prof: Green IT is a waste of time: Digital nomads will destroy the planet was by Lewis Page, an anti-research, anti-military propagandist whose report grossly over simplifies, and thus misrepresents, the already over simplified press release it's based on.

Consider, for example, how this bit from the press release

Richard Hawkins, Canada Research Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, says there is no evidence that information technologies necessarily reduce our environmental footprint. His research will provide input into the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) initiative on IT and sustainability at the Earth Summit in Copenhagen.

becomes this:

A prominent Canadian academic in the tech-policy field has said that "Green IT" initiatives don't work.

when translated by Mr. Lewis.

Notice that what the university press release actually says is that social effects, such as increased personal mobility, may net out, with respect to brown emissions, the benefit of smaller, more mobile, computers relative to the older desktop information access model. Mr. Lewis, in contrast, simply says green IT doesn't work - a radically different thing.

The other piece: Japan's boffins: Global warming isn't man-made : Climate science is 'ancient astrology', claims report is by Andrew Orlowski - a reporter with a long record of careful work who went the extra mile here to arrange for third party translation from the Japanese of the original report.

Here's his introduction:

Exclusive Japanese scientists have made a dramatic break with the UN and Western-backed hypothesis of climate change in a new report from its Energy Commission.

Three of the five researchers disagree with the UN's IPCC view that recent warming is primarily the consequence of man-made industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. Remarkably, the subtle and nuanced language typical in such reports has been set aside.

One of the five contributors compares computer climate modeling to ancient astrology. Others castigate the paucity of the US ground temperature data set used to support the hypothesis, and declare that the unambiguous warming trend from the mid-part of the 20th Century has ceased.

So what we have here is a contrast: on the one hand we have a hysterical misreport of a professional grant getter's statement of the blindingly obvious piling another straw on our collective guilt over destroying the planet through progress - and another, much more credible seeming report from a serious reporter citing serious scientists saying it's all fabricated.

So what can you do?

How about adding a little reality? The whole debate (not that's there's much left of it these days - the nays have it in spades) has little or nothing immediately to do with a much more pressing reality: your monthly power bill and, particularly in the United States, the additional energy taxes and rationing the new administration plans to impose.

It all comes down to this: if you have an opportunity to reduce your net power costs, doing so makes sense whether climate change is negative and/or has a human caused component or not.

I picked on these two reports because they illustrate opposite extremes in reporting on this set of issues and were on the same page on the same day - but the bottom line, in this case, really is the bottom line: you can leverage public hysteria on the subject to get approvals for almost anything, but it's utterly absurd to base technology changes on power savings, direct or indirect, unless those savings net out positive on the real green, cash, for you.


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