Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple. Apple is wildly successful, but we don’t know how much of the credit should go to Cook and how much to the legendary Steve Jobs, who died 3-1/2 years ago. Cook has become a sort of Silicon Valley philosopher, using his platform at Apple to pontificate on this and that.
Cook likes to pontificate about climate change (formerly known as global warming). Are his pontifications greenwashing — to make Apple seem to be with it to the residents of trendy places like Palo Alto or Mill Valley? Maybe the problem is that Cook spends too much time talking to Al Gore, the high priest of global warming nonsense. Al Gore is on Apple’s board of directors. Cook’s public statements make it clear that he is incredibly ill informed concerning global warming and auxiliary topics like solar energy.
At a recent presentation in San Francisco, Cook said: “We know at Apple that climate change is real,” and, “The time for action is now.” Nobody knows what it means to say that climate change is real. Does it mean that the Earth is warming. No, at least not for the last 18 years. Does it mean that the weather is getting worse or more extreme? No, the evidence for that is not real. Does it mean that sea level rise is accelerating? No, that’s not happening either. Does it mean that the ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica are suddenly melting? No, that’s not happening, unless you consider a transient melting of 1/15,000th of the Greenland ice cap to prove something. Perhaps Cook thinks that computer models of the Earth’s climate, that disagree with each other, are infallible, even though they’ve been completely wrong for the last 18 years. Maybe “climate change is real” means that climate change has been really good for its promoters. Think of all the Iowa farmers selling corn to alcohol producers and all the scientists getting government grants.
Cook is simply repeating Al Gore slogans backed up by very self-interested scientists and their labor unions, otherwise known as scientific societies.
According to Cook “the time for action is now.” Suppose that global warming theory, against all evidence, is really true. Further, let’s suppose that global warming is harmful and justifies spending trillions of dollars to fight it. What would be a plausible action?
According to establishment global warming theory, global warming can be slowed and then stopped by stopping the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Apple’s global warming prevention program is to substitute renewable electricity, generated by methods that don’t emit CO2. Apple has built or plans to build approximately 200 megawatts of solar electricity capacity. Capacity means the amount of power generated when the sun is shining squarely on the solar panels. The average power is about 20% as great. So Apple’s solar installations generate an average power, as if spread over 24 hours, of about 40 megawatts — 20% of 200 megawatts. The amount of power produced by the Apple solar installations, that are spread over thousands of acres and that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, could be duplicated by a very small natural gas generating plant. The solar installations deliver power for about 20 cents per kilowatt hour. This is about 4 times more expensive than electricity generated by natural gas. Apple’s overpriced solar electricity is sufficient to displace 1% or 2% of the total amount of CO2 that Apple is responsible for, according to Apple’s own Environmental Responsibility Report. Apple’s solar electricity has a negligible effect on CO2 emissions. It is a publicity stunt, otherwise known as greenwashing.
Apple claims to run much of its domestic operations on renewable (non CO2 producing) electricity. However this is done via bookkeeping schemes that allocate to Apple a disproportionate fraction of the non-CO2 electricity circulating in the electric grid. The electricity actually being used mostly comes from coal or natural gas. Obviously, if Apple is allocated the renewable electricity, then other users have less renewable electricity, thus increasing CO2 emissions that other users of the electric grid are supposedly responsible for. So, no CO2 emissions are reduced by this bookkeeping scheme. It is simply a scheme for making Apple look good. Apple is taking publicity credit for reducing the same CO2 that other producers and political entities are also taking credit for.
Amusingly, in its Environmental Responsibility Report, when describing the character of the electricity available via the electric grid at its North Carolina data center, Apple manages to characterize nuclear electricity as non-renewable, even though nuclear electricity generation does not emit CO2. Nuclear electricity is politically incorrect among the anti-nuke environmentalists and thus unsuitable for preventing global warming. It does not matter that it is CO2-free. Political imagery trumps facts.
Apple also implies that CO2-free hydroelectricity is not renewable, following the lead of the state of California that decrees that only very small hydroelectric installations without dams (“micro-hydro’) is renewable. Maybe this makes sense to someone at the Sierra Club where dams have been declared politically incorrect because they interfere with fish and kayaking.
Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report manages to describe Apple’s CO2 emissions without mentioning the word “China.” Apple’s manufacturing is largely done in China and China is the world’s foremost emitter of CO2, since its economy runs on coal generated electricity. And it is from China that most of Apple’s CO2 emissions emanate. Since CO2 rapidly mixes in the atmosphere and spreads around the world, Apple deserves no credit for concentrating its efforts on reducing CO2 emissions to emissions in the U.S.
It is worth mentioning some other deceptive claims in Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report. Apple takes credit for phasing out lead-containing solder. But the entire electronics industry was forced to eliminate lead in solder due to regulations imposed by nut-case European regulators. Lead had been in solder used for electronics for 100 years without problems. Forcing its elimination cost billions with no benefits whatsoever. Few people are eating circuit boards. Many soldered-in electronics components had to be redesigned to resist higher soldering temperatures resulting from eliminating lead in solder.
Apple takes credit for eliminating so called endocrine disrupters in plastics, but endocrine disrupters, like global warming, is little more than speculative junk science.
Never the less, Apple is actually a wonderful company with great products. Even wonderful companies sometimes engage in irrelevant stupidities or utilize deceptive publicity.