Discover more from Bennett’s Five Links
Bennett’s Five Links #079
Carbon Apples; Fathers, Futures and Flying Insects
Collect the whole set-offs ..
I’m not sure about linking to this one, as I don’t really understand how Medium’s paywall works. I **think** you will be able to read it if you still have your 5-free-stories-per-month-quota available. If not - my apologies. But I’ll copy and paste the good bits below anyways.
This is kind of a big deal when you think about how massive Apple’s supply chain must be, and the fact that the device itself requires power to be used.
A recent comment by the (also glorious) John Siracusa on ATP #552 also points out the bravery in Apple’s commitment here. And that, in producing their (somewhat cringey imho) ‘Mother Nature’ short, they were essentially poking fun at themselves and at companies like them for anaemic decarbonisation claims.
But this article cuts through some of that back-slapping in an effective way. The short version: any time you hear claims about ‘carbon neutral’ products, especially in the tech world, it can near universally involve the use of carbon offsets.
And this means the quality of the claim is dependent on the quality of the carbon offsets used.
And the reality is that most carbon offsets kind of suck.
There is limited technology available to draw CO2 out of our atmosphere and sequester it either underground or as a liquid/solid.
Trees and vegetation offsets are ok, but impermanent (i.e. trees can be later cleared or, even worse, burn down). And clunky.
So this means that many carbon offsets are generated through ‘avoidant’ means. That is, “we were going to burn down this old rainforest, but now we’ve decided not to, so can we have some kind of reward please”. These avoidant means might mean that new carbon isn’t emitted — but, in my view, it does nothing to ‘offset’ carbon already generated through the production of, say, Apple watches.
Anyways, Will Lockett does a much better job of explaining it than I can, and you should read his work.
Their annual emissions peaked in 2015 when they emitted 38.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That year, Apple made a whopping 53.39 billion dollars in profit! 7 years later (2022), they emitted 46.35% less emissions at 20.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, yet their annual profits have soared to a staggering 99.8 billion dollars! This means Apple has successfully and dramatically decoupled growth from emissions, a critical step towards sustainability.
In the announcement, they stated that specific case and band combinations of the Apple Watch Series 9, Ultra 2 and SE will be entirely carbon-neutral and labelled and advertised as such. They went on to say they had done this by reducing emissions from materials, electricity, and transportation in the production of the watches. One of the main ways they have done this is to pressurise their supply chain to use renewable energy — though I have yet to find out if this is genuine renewable energy or renewable energy credits. Any remaining pollution will be offset through nature-based projects like restoring forests and increasing their carbon capacity. Furthermore, Apple will also offset the electricity the consumer will use to charge the device by buying carbon credits that fund renewable energy infrastructure.
Let’s start with the odd one: renewable energy infrastructure carbon credits. On the surface, these seem like an innocuous and obvious way to reduce and offset emissions, but they aren’t. They don’t pull carbon out of the atmosphere; they merely reduce the carbon that will enter the atmosphere in the future, and not by all that much.
Now let’s look at the other offsetting method, Natural carbon credits. These pay to restore and expand natural carbon-rich environments like rainforests or mangroves to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. In theory, they work and do good, but they are incredibly dubious for carbon-neutral claims. You see, calculating how much carbon is stored is incredibly difficult and susceptible to cherry-picking, meaning the carbon credits linked to these practices are not verifiable or reliable. What’s more, these ecosystems don’t have the capacity to store enough carbon to truly help us reach net-zero. These natural carbon sinks are also vulnerable to collapse and carbon release from things like wildfires and even earthquakes, so they aren’t a safe form of carbon storage either.
It’s a damn shame that a company like Apple feels the need to sully its already decent (but not good enough) sustainability record with such transparent greenwashing. There are so many better ways to show your efforts towards sustainability than undermining your own credibility like this.
You know very well, Dad …
Hope I haven’t linked to this already!
Where’s my flying car ..
This is a good effort, except that soon the waiters will be AI robots.
Michael Keaton did it first, I think ..
This is a good idea and something we should probably all do.
Has someone created an app for this yet?
I can’t bee-lieve it ..
The ultimate kamikaze.
I wonder if we’d have more honey if only bees could develop just a bit better self-esteem.
AI Prompt: “street art on wall as oil painting”.