The EIA has called for the “global elimination” of HFCs, commonly used in data centre cooling systems
Campaigners from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have called for the “global elimination” of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), in order to give the international community time to secure meaningful commitments to carbon emission reductions.
The call came following the United Nations Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa last week. The main aim of the conference was to keep the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming/climate change on track.
While these objectives were mostly achieved, the Durban climate summit has been regarded by some campaigners as yielding modest or even disappointing results that fail to address the climates change problem.
“Unfortunately, it falls very short on substance and will delay meaningful action on climate change for a further decade unless Parties take the initiative to move faster and/or take additional action of their own accord,” wrote the EIA’s global environment campaigner Natasha Hurley on a blog.
“Current emissions reduction pledges are significantly lower than what scientists tell us is necessary to limit global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels,” she wrote.
Hurley then pointed out that the global elimination of hydrofluorocarbons was “one action which would buy the international community time to secure meaningful and legally binding commitments to slash carbon emissions before climate change spirals out of control.”
Hydrofluorocarbons are the most common type of F gases and are mainly used as the refrigerant in air conditioning and commercial refrigeration systems. A comprehensive EU F gas regulatory framework has already been fully implemented in the UK, which is expected to significantly reduce UK HFC emissions over the next 20 years.
Dereliction Of Duty
Hurley however said that a worldwide phase-out of HFCs has the potential to avoid 88 to 140 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions reductions by 2050.
“There is simply no other comparable near-term strategy for greenhouse gas mitigation nor prospect for eliminating an entire class of greenhouse gases,” she wrote. “Failure to seize this opportunity now would be an indefensible dereliction of duty. EIA calls on Parties to the Montreal Protocol and to the UNFCCC to make 2012 the year in which HFCs become history.”
She pointed out that current estimates suggest that the release of fluorinated greenhouse gases accounts for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, about the same as the entire air transport sector.
But the use of HFCs is expected to grow in developing nations, and because of the demand for air conditioning and cooling systems, commonly found in data centres and server rooms.
As a result, many data centre managers are now looking at ways to reduce their refrigeration needs, or get rid of them all together with so-called ‘free air cooling’, i.e. using outside air to cool servers instead of running chillers or air conditioning systems.
Yorkshire Water for example announced in the summer that its new free air-cooled data centre in Bradford would help it save 31 tonnes of carbon per year, resulting in cost savings of £90,000. The Dumfries and Galloway local authority also announced a new facility will use outside air to cool the servers for six months of the year. IBM estimated that this should equate to around a 25 to 30 percent energy saving, because of the reduced need for air conditioning, and will save the council around £20,000 per annum.
Other companies in the meantime are exploring evaporative cooling, which uses the drop in temperature that occurs when water that has been exposed to moving air begins to vaporise and change to gas – also known as the ‘wet t-shirt effect”. EcoCooling for example claims its evaporative cooling system uses 90 percent less energy than traditional refrigeration units, while keeping the IT equipment at a constant temperature.