In this issue:
The power of AI
The increasing use of AI is resulting in a corresponding, voracious appetite for power. Analysis by a PhD student at the Amsterdam School of Business and Economics reveals if AI is integrated into every Google search its annual power consumption will hit over 29 TWh, about the same as the total consumption of Ireland. The chart below shows estimates of the power consumption of different AI applications compared with a standard Google search.
Estimated energy consumption per request for various AI-powered systems compared to a standard Google search.
AI for good
But it’s not all bad. Google as just extended Project Green Light, which is now operational in 12 cities around the world, including Seattle, Jakarta, Rio, Hamburg and Kolkata. The system models traffic patterns across linked intersections to help engineers adjust traffic light sequencing to speed traffic flows. Some estimates indicate around half of the emissions at intersections arise from frequent stop-starts. Early indications are the system delivers a 30% reduction in stops and 10% reduction in emissions.
AI for good 2
As well as Project Green Light, Google has launched new or improved applications for fuel efficient routing on Google Maps, reducing aviation contrails, flood and wildfire tracking and cool roof and tree planting optimisation in cities.
Massive river heat pump switched on
Mannheimer Versorgungs- und Verkehrsgesellschaft mbH (MVV) has just switched on a district heating system that will provide heating and hot water to 3,500 households in Mannheim using a heat pump in the Rhine. The 18 metre x 5 metre heat pump boasts a thermal capacity of 20MW and an electrical capacity of 7MW. It is expected to deliver annual savings of 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Have we already hit 1.5C?
Perhaps not on average but the BBC reported this week the average global temperature exceeded the threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels on around a third of 2023’s days so far.
Not all trees are made equal
Isoprene (from plants) is the second-highest emitted hydrocarbon on Earth. Only methane is higher. Scientists at Michigan State University have discovered that, as temperatures rise, certain plants, oak and poplar trees in particular, emit higher levels of isoprene. In a clean environment, isoprene improves air quality. However, where there are existing pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide from vehicles, the isoprene reacts with them to exacerbate their impact resulting in poorer air quality and environmental degradation. They conclude the downside is stronger than the up and so, as temperatures increase, we are likely to experience poorer air quality around these trees.
9bn Kgs of invisible e-waste a year
14th October is election day in New Zealand. It is also International E-Waste Day, as declared by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Forum (WEEEFORUM). While most of us are cognisant of the need to recycle computers, phones and the like, WEEEFORUM is out to highlight the potential to recycle “invisible” electronic waste, which includes things like unused cables, electronic toys, LED-decorated novelty clothes, power tools, vaping devices and other small consumer products. It estimates we throw away 9 billion kilos of this away each year, 35% (3.2 billion Kgs) being the 7.3 billion electronic toys discarded annually. We also ditch 844 million vaping devices and 950 million kilos of cables, mostly made of easily recyclable copper.
Beer under threat
Yes, even the favourite tipple of many around the world is under threat from climate change. Czech scientists studying crops and yields across Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, representing around 90% of world hop production, are predicting a significant reduction in yields and quality by 2050. Yield is expected to be down between 4% and 18% and alpha content down between 20 and 31%.