In the latest example of climate-change hypocrisy, Britain's Daily Mail reported yesterday that the supercomputer the U.K.'s national weather bureau uses to predict climate change is one of the country's worst polluters.
The massive IBM System p used by England's Met Office in Exeter, Devon, consumes 1.2 megawatts of energy, is capable of running a trillion calculations per second and reportedly feeds data to 400 scientists. The building it's housed in produces 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and 75% of this (or 9,000 tons) is attributed to the climate change computer. It's estimated that 1,000 homes could be powered with the energy that the U.K. puts into forecasting climate change.However, we in the U.S can't afford to feel too smug about this. Our Cash for Clunkers program is another hypocritical climate change gesture. While swapping a clunker that gets 18 miles per gallon for a new car that gets 27.5 mpg and driving it for 12,000 miles (the average distance an American car travels annually) could save two tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted in one year, manufacturing a new car produces 3.5 to 12.4 tons of carbon dioxide; according to Duke University research the average is 6.7 tons. Thus it would take an average of three years to environmentally break even on the new cars from a carbon-dioxide-emissions point of view. Meanwhile, dumping the traded-in cars, an estimated 625,000 still-drivable vehicles, in landfills is creating another, longer-term form of pollution. Keeping that Ford Explorer a few more years would be a greener thing to do.
(P.S. And although it's pleasant to think the Cash for Clunkers program has helped the U.S. auto industry, it hasn't. The "clunker" most commonly turned in is the Ford Explorer; the most-purchased car under the program is the Toyota Corolla; Japanese auto companies are obviously reaping this windfall. The initiative has given U.S. car dealerships a temporary lift in sales, but this could lead to lower than expected sales next year, since people who weren't planning to buy this year were incented to accelerate that decision. One could also argue that Americans were pushed to put money into a new car that might have otherwise gone into a home improvement, clothing or some other product that could boost the retail industry. On the other hand, at least 625,000 people spent money on something, so perhaps that gave our economy a boost.)