Unplugging chargers won’t save the planet

I recently read an article lauding efforts to cut a companies contributions to global warming. And, the contributions in the article, such as ensuring all buildings were properly insulated feel very sensible (I am slightly amazed that they weren’t already well insulated, but since they apparently weren’t, then it is very good to hear that it is now being done). The article started, in what is becoming rather the convention for starting such articles, with three pithy ‘did you know’ factoids. Two of them were unfortunately meaningless, since they compared the power saved by taking some action to the energy used in another circumstance… missing that you need to use comparable units to do a comparison. However, it was not these that irritated. Well, I tell a lie, they did, but it was the third that was in some respects worse.

The last point noted that everyone could contribute if they turned off phone chargers when not in use. To explain why this concerned me (it is after all, completely correct), I’d like to recommend a book called ‘Sustainable energy – without the hot air’ by David MacKay. It isn’t long, it’s an entertaining read, and if you want, you can even download it for free from www.withouthotair.com . What the book aims to do it to cut through the nonsense that is talked about how we use energy.

To give you a taster, three factoids drawn from the book in exchange for the ones I was rude about.

  • If we want a moderate change of holding global warming below 2 C, we need to reduce global emissions by 70-85% by 2050 … and keeping it easy that means stopping using ALL fossil fuels
  • The energy consumed by each person in the UK in domestic heating and cooling, including cooking is 21kWh/day. You can generate the equivalent of 16kWh/day per person from all plausable UK shallow off-shore wind turbines. All economic wind turbines in the UK wouldn’t be enough to provide even domestic our heating and cooling. We need to focus on using less much more than how to replace existing sources
  • And, the energy consumed by a phone charger in a day is equivalent to a single second of driving a car, or a single cup of water hot enough for a bath. And this is what people think is worth calling out as worthy of focus to save energy. Even with all the chargers you possess it will be less than a percent of the typical energy demand, and it allows people to think that they are doing their bit.
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