By Steve Hamm
Over the past decade, the use of wind power has exploded–driven initially by demand in North America and Western Europe. But a variety of factors, including the economic slowdown in Europe and low-cost natural gas in the United States, have slowed wind adoption in developed economies. So now the emerging nations are driving growth. Now, aided in part by sophisticated weather science, those countries could play a huge role in blunting the effects of climate change.
In fact, a test project that’s being launched in China’s windy northern Hebei province could help clear the way for accelerated wind power adoption worldwide. Jibei Electricity Power Company, working with scientists from IBM Research-China, is using new technology to analyze weather and wind farm operations data in an effort to increase the reliability and economies of using wind energy on utility grids. “This is more than just business. It’s very important for society, for the whole of mankind,” says Henry Yu, a veteran of the Chinese utility industry who now works for IBM.
Today, coal provides about 80% of China’s electricity. Smog chokes the major Chinese cities and huge clouds of soot from the country’s coal-burning power plants have spread as far as the West Coast of the United States. The government is determined to do something about the situation—through a combination of subsidies and directives. As a result, last year China overtook the United States as the world’s largest user of wind power.
By Steve Hamm
Mark Twain’s often repeated quip, “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it,” captures perfectly humanity’s frustration with the vagaries of weather. Take heart, though. While IBM Researcher Lloyd Treinish doesn’t claim he can change the weather, he and his environmental science team at IBM Research promise they can do the next-best thing: help people make better decisions based on pin-point accurate weather predictions.
The team’s sophisticated weather prediction technology, nicknamed Deep Thunder, can help city managers prepare for severe storms; farmers plan the planting, irrigation and harvesting of crops; and electrical utilities respond to hurricanes or integrate alternative energy sources such as wind and solar into their grids. “When we think of the impact of weather on business, it’s enormous,” Lloyd says. “In this country alone, it’s estimated that a significant fraction of the GDP is dependent on weather conditions.”
Eventually, the team’s technology could be useful for individuals as well. Already, Treinish gets calls from IBM research colleagues who are planning backyard barbeques and want to avoid rainouts. Continue Reading »
By Stephen Ahn
How will the next generation of leaders solve the world’s sustainability challenges? We asked Erb/WEC Fellow Stephen Ahn, who’s participating in a new program created by the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, the World Environment Center and IBM. You can also read a perspective on this topic by Stephen’s colleague, Emily Taylor, here.
At the World Environment Center conference on resource scarcity, I had the chance to hear speakers from the National Intelligence Council, the New America Foundation and the WWF engage with corporate executives. Invited to attend as a WEC/Erb Fellow - with sponsorship from IBM – I was struck by how dire our future looked. Continue Reading »
By Rich Hume
With 20 percent of its land below sea level and more than half of the country vulnerable to flooding, The Netherlands depends on a vast network of dykes and sluices to hold back and divert sea, river and rain water. For most of the past 500 years, the ever-evolving system has done its job admirably. (An exception came in 1953, with flooding that caused the deaths of 1800 people.) Yet global warming and the threat of rising sea levels but also more droughts means the Dutch can’t rest on their laurels. So the government is launching an innovative collaboration aimed at harnessing big data to improve management of the water system while restraining cost increases. Continue Reading »
By Ben Goldhirsh
Cloud computing is the new mantra for small businesses looking to go green.
That’s important because IT’s carbon footprint has been expanding. Between 2011 and 2020, carbon emissions for worldwide information communication technology (ICT) equipment and services are expected to double from 2 percent to 4 percent of total emissions, according to market research firm Verdantix.
Becoming a green business means more than just eliminating paper. It is about eliminating waste and reducing energy consumption. One easy step towards “going green” and significantly decreasing your carbon footprint is to eliminate or reduce energy-consuming on-premises equipment and move your IT to the cloud. Continue Reading »
By Wayne Balta
IBM yesterday was recognized for its supply chain leadership by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The company was presented with a 2013 Climate Leadership Award in Washington, D.C. by the EPA, the Association of Climate Change Officers, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry.
The award cited IBM for our ambitious emissions reduction goals, and for being at the leading edge of setting requirements for suppliers to measure, disclose and reduce their operational greenhouse gas emissions..
IBM takes environmental leadership very seriously, because it’s essential to building a smarter planet. In the area of supply chain, the company is committed to doing business with environmentally responsible suppliers. Continue Reading »
Last September, when Typhoon Sanba smashed into the Korean peninsula, it packed winds so strong that they sent rocks flying through the air like missiles and caused massive power outages.
“Hwangsa” storms, carrying dense clouds of yellow dust from China’s Gobi Desert that are sometimes loaded with heavy metals and carcinogens, sweep across the peninsula from West to East.
Menaced by such destructive weather phenomena, South Korea is upgrading its national weather information system with the goal of understanding weather patterns better and predicting better the location and ferocity of weather events. The upgrade being installed by the Korean Meteorological Administration increases the agency’s data storage capacity by nearly 1000% to 9.3 petabytes, making it Korea’s most capable storage system. IBM provides the storage hardware and software. Continue Reading »
By Chris Steinkamp
Last year was the warmest in recorded history. But now we’re experiencing a sudden shift from the unseasonably warm temperatures of 2012 to below-freezing temperatures as we begin the new year.
We all know that what’s happening out the window is weather, not climate, but these radical shifts in temperature are likely to be more frequent due to global climate change – a long-term trend caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And we’re already seeing how nature is responding.
President Barack Obama pledged in his inaugural address last week to respond to the threat of climate change. Looking at the Big Data already generated from scientific researchers from around the world, a level of insight is needed to identify and analyze extreme weather patterns such as raging fires, crippling drought, powerful storms and dramatic shifts in temperature – as well as to outline the steps needed to reduce our carbon footprint. Continue Reading »
Editor’s Note: This Friday (August 24), be sure to join us for an interactive Smarter Friday conversation about Smarter Cities Challenge on Facebook throughout the business day (New York time). Please Tweet to #SmarterCities.
Nearly four years into the Smarter Planet journey, IBMers have undertaken more than 2,000 engagements with governments and businesses aimed helping them use cutting-edge technologies to make their systems for getting things done work better. These encounters are all over the map, geographically and figuratively. But important lessons are being learned. And, in particular, one interesting pattern is emerging. For organizations of all types, good outcomes depend on addressing the yin and yang of building a smarter planet: a combination of improvisation and preparedness–or long term planning.
Improvisation: In the realm of smarter planet problems and solutions, there’s so much variability that no single blueprint will fit every overtly similar situation. Organizations have to be flexible and creative to get stuff done. They can’t let the need for a master plan or budget-tightening pressures paralyze them.
Preparedness: While creative fixes can help city leaders manage their systems for the short-term, the longer-term vitality of cities, countries and organizations depends on leaders adopting a mission and a strategy for achieving it. But even that’s not enough. They have to anticipate the challenges to come–everything from next year’s big storm to the impacts of climate change to the next big financial shock–and build resilient systems capable of withstanding them.
Across North America, drought-stricken farmers are facing historically small harvests, raising concerns about global shortages and increasing food prices. This summer’s drought should be a strong reminder that we have to manage our water resources more carefully.
In many countries, the competition for water between the countryside and cities is intensifying. Farmers face an uphill battle in the competition for water since industry can afford to pay much more than they can, according to the Earth Policy Institute.
This battle over water is likely to intensify. As the world’s levels of CO2 emissions continue to rise, the frequency of extreme weather phenomena such as heat waves is expected to intensify. Heat waves are expected to further strain the world’s water resources, especially in areas where water demand is increasing and water supplies are shrinking. The challenge worldwide is to meet today’s water needs while putting in place innovative strategies to address future requirements.
One of the best ways to promote sustainability is to make consumers aware of the true cost of water.