Apple and climate change: Junk science and misguided idealism?

Are Apple's climate change efforts based on misguided idealism and junk science? Why the company might want to tone down its rhetoric about global warming

tim cook
Credit: Jonny Evans at Computerworld

Under the leadership of Tim Cook, Apple has been a vocal advocate for certain policies, including what the company calls "climate change." While some have applauded Apple's commitment to battle global warming, I'm forced to wonder if the company's efforts aren't simply misguided.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that Apple is paying attention to the environment and that it's aware of its own impact on it. But I think that Apple's climate change efforts might be based on misguided idealism.

Before I offer my thoughts about Apple and global warming, here's a recent story at The Verge that sums up the company's perspective on the issue:

Jacob Kastrenakes reports for The Verge:

Apple is continuing to take a strong stance against climate change, writing in its newly released 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report, "We don’t want to debate climate change. We want to stop it." This is framed as a major piece in Apple's reasoning for turning to more environmentally sustainable practices when it comes to use of power and materials. "We’ve made real progress in reducing the impact of the things we control directly — our offices, retail stores, and products," Apple writes. "But there’s still a lot of work to be done to reduce the carbon footprint of our supply chain. And it’s our responsibility to lead that effort."

The 2015 report, which covers Apple's 2014 fiscal year, shows Apple continuing to move closer to its goal of using entirely renewable energy to power its operations. All of Apple's U.S. operations are now powered with renewable energy, and 87 percent of its global operations are now renewable. The weak link appears to be Apple's retail stores, as it says that all data centers and offices are already on renewable power.

More at The Verge

I generally hate getting into issues like global warming because they are political, and the politics of this country have become utterly toxic. Anytime a political issue is discussed, even if it relates to a technology company like Apple, there's usually an outpouring of venom and hate from all sides of the issue. But I think it's worth considering if Apple's take on climate change or global warming or whatever you want to call it is a worthwhile expenditure of the company's resources.

Put me in the global warming skeptic category

You can officially put me in the skeptic category when it comes to global warming. I prefer to use that term, by the way, because "climate change" has been happening since the very beginning of the planet. So when I see people referring to climate change, I have to chuckle a bit since the planet has been undergoing that since its inception and there's absolutely nothing that human beings can do to stop it one way or the other. Ultimately, we have as much control over climate change as the dinosaurs did.

Speaking of dinosaurs, one very interesting program that is worth watching on Netflix is "Walking With Dinosaurs." It covers about 165 million years of natural earth history. And one of the things that stood out for me is that the temperature of the planet went up and down significantly over that period of time. Some of the dinosaurs adapted and survived, while others did not and went extinct. But the important point is that climate change was happening already back then...and there were no humans around to leave "carbon footprints" anywhere on the planet.

Another reason why I'm a global warming skeptic is because of the "global cooling" fraud of the 1970s. I'm old enough to remember the media pushing that line on the public. Remember what they were saying then? The planet was cooling and that we'd be entering a "new ice age" and that sort of thing. Well, the global cooling advocates and the media were wrong then, and I think they're quite wrong now about global warming. It's hubris on a planetary scale for humans to think that we can directly control the temperature of Earth.

Apple should probably tone down its global warming rhetoric

So now you know my own take on global warming, and it's that skepticism that makes me wonder if Apple's efforts to push the climate change narrative are misguided. I think the company means well, and I'm glad they care about the environment. But I also think they are contributing to the unnecessarily alarmist misinformation that gets pushed on the public by the media. Let's face it, when a company has large and powerful as Apple jumps into the global warming fray, it's going to have an impact to one degree or another.

Apple's CEO even told some investors a while back that they should get out of the stock if they didn't like Apple's global warming initiatives:

Chris Taylor reports for Mashable:

Apple has made vast improvements in its use of renewable energy since Cook took over from Steve Jobs. More than three-quarters of the company's facilities worldwide, including all of its data centers and its Cupertino HQ, now run on solar, wind, geothermal or hydro power, up from about a quarter under Jobs. Last year, Cook hired Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA, to lead the company's sustainability efforts.

Anyone who had a problem with that approach? They should sell their Apple shares. "If you only want me to make things, make decisions that have a clear ROI, then you should get out of the stock," Cook said to applause. Danhof's proposal was voted down by shareholders.

More at Mashable

It's unfortunate that things got so ugly between Tim Cook and the group of investors that questioned Apple's global warming initiatives at that shareholder meeting. But it's also a clear mark of the differences in viewpoints on that issue. While I can appreciate Tim Cook's frank comments, I also think he might live to regret them as time goes by and the global warming issue fades and is forgotten.

His response to those Apple investors was the verbal equivalent of taking a two by four to the heads of the people who saw the issue differently than he did. But the remarks played well in the media, and perhaps that was part of what Tim Cook was trying to achieve when he made them. He is a very media savvy CEO, and I think he probably had a pretty good idea of how his remarks would be characterized in the press.

Don't misunderstand me here, I appreciate Apple's efforts to make its products as environmentally-friendly as possible. And I think it's great that the company is using renewable energy and is getting into sustainable forestry. But I think the company could do all that without joining the chorus of "the planet is doomed if we don't fix global warming" types.

In a way that sort of rhetoric might actually damage the company's credibility since a significant chunk of the public still refuses to join the global warming hysteria being pushed by governments and many media outlets. I suspect that some Apple customers probably just roll their eyes when they see the words "Apple" and "climate change" in the same headline. I know I did when I saw the latest story from The Verge about it.

Part of the problem of course is that every company wants to be seen as "doing something" about "the problem." And Apple is no different in that sense. It wants to be praised and respected by the media, its peers and the public for doing the responsible thing. But time may prove this to be a very bad idea.

As with the global cooling farce that happened in the 70s, I think we will eventually see that global warming is just as much of an overhyped bit of nonsense. When that finally happens, I think Apple will unfortunately end up with egg on its face if the company doesn't promptly tone down its rhetoric on the issue.

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