But while the company claims to have cut emissions by 20 percent, it is only using a 2006 baseline while targets such as Kyoto use a 1990 level
Chip maker AMD has gone on the greeen offensive with the publication of two reports which tout its environmental and corporate responsibility efforts amid long-standing criticism of the vast amounts of natural resources consumed in the chip production process.
Released this week, the ninth annual Global Climate Protection Plan (GCPP) and the 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report relate to the the environmental and social impacts of chip production respectively.
Commenting on the release of the reports, AMD president and chief executive Dirk Meyer said that the company is pleases with its progress thus far on both counts. “AMD’s commitment to operating our business responsibly remains a top priority, and while we are pleased with our record, we’re focused on continuing to drive improvement,” he said.
On the environmental front, the GCPP report cites evidence of the company’s apparent progress when it comes to improving its environmental impact including reducing its emissions by 20 percent.
However AMD’s 20 percent reduction is only relative to a baseline of 2006, the company admits. Global climate change efforts – such as the Kyoto Protocol – have set their baseline back at 1990 levels, which effectively means that cuts are only counted once they go below what emissions were nearly 20 years ago. AMD’s appears to have only decided to count its emissions progress from just three years ago despite producing its GCPP report since 2000.
AMD’s motivations for using a 2006 baseline are unclear given that in the GCPP report it appears to adhere to more rigorous targets for some emissions. ” AMD actively supports the semiconductor industry’s worldwide PFC reduction goal of a 10 percent reduction by 2010 relative to a baseline year of 1995 established through the World Semiconductor Council (WSC)
The UN advisory body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has recommended that developed nations cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. In the US for example, total emissions levels in 2005 were around 18 percent higher than 1990 levels.
British tech giant BT for example claims to have cut its carbon footprint by 58 percent from the figure in 1996, and plans to keep on cutting until by 2020 it will only be using 20 percent of the carbon it used then.
The chip-maker also outlined other environmental efforts including its AMD North American Go Green commuter program which it claims “eliminated around 1,027,000 miles of driving, conserving approximately 50,000 gallons of gasoline, and avoiding approximately 430,000 kg of CO2 equivalent emissions in 2008.”
But despite the progress laid out by AMD in its recent reports, environmental experts continue to focus on the resource hungry nature of chip production. According to information from the US Environmental Literacy Council, computer chips have an extremely high environmental impact compared to their weight.
“For every gram of a microchip, 630 grams of fossil fuels are used, whereas for every gram of an automobile, only 2 grams of fossil fuels are used,” the groups states. “This is due to the fact that making very pure, organized and hence low entropy structures from high entropy materials require large energy inputs. Automobiles, while made with heavy materials, do not require the level of purity and sophistication of materials as a microchip. The energy used in producing nine or ten computers is enough to produce an automobile.”
While computer companies such as AMD are keen to focus the IT environmental debate on energy efficiency – and discuss how computing tools such as video conferencing can be used as an alternative for commuting for example – there is growing pressure amongst environmental IT experts to move the debate onto cutting back PC refresh cycles and “sweating assets”.
Speakingat the Green IT ’09 conference in London in May, Cabinet Office deputy champion for green ICT Catalina McGregor, said that as well as facing mandated targets, government departments will be asked to potentially hold onto existing IT kit even longer.
“For the first time we are getting really good information out of Japan, out of the Swiss, and a number of countries about the carbon footprint of creating kit – how much water goes into creating kit, silicon, sand and on an elemental level – so please keep your eyes open because the math from that production is going to help us make a better judgment call on how long we keep our equipment,” she told an audience of government and private sector IT pros at the two day show.