Using Less Energy Creates More CO2?

From the “Just When I Thought They Couldn’t Get Any Stupider” Department comes this gem.

One of the things I thought the move to working from home during Covid lockdowns brought about was less CO2 emissions because people weren’t commuting to and from work and burning all those nasty fossil fuels, offices were closed which meant lights weren’t needed, heat would remain set to overnight temps if not lower, A/C didn’t need to run in empty offices, and computers weren’t being used on site. But according to the usual suspects, 2 emissions were higher because of home offices, something that doesn’t make sense.

Tech and financial companies leading efforts to cut climate changing emissions are finding a new challenge from remote work: the CO2 spewing out of home offices.

A few companies have begun counting what happens when employees boot up computers at home, turn up gas furnaces and ignore the world’s most energy-efficient corporate campuses. It turns out that home setups popularized by the pandemic are eroding some of the climate benefit of abandoned commutes.

“Emissions didn’t go away,” said Amanda von Almen, head of emissions reduction at Salesforce.com Inc. “They just shifted to another area.”

That emissions shifted isn’t in question. But to ignore the emissions from commuting is disingenuous. Assuming workplaces are far more energy efficient than homes is something one cannot automatically take as truth. They also assume everyone’s home office (or at least their home) is unoccupied during the day. They also make certain assumptions about the workplace energy usage.

Climate experts say those solutions scratch the surface: After pouring billions of dollars into traditional offices decked with rooftop solar, bathed in natural lighting and equipped with water recycling, employers transitioning to hybrid work need clear plans to make every location just as green.

I am not sure exactly where you find all of the offices/campuses mentioned above, but it sure as heck isn’t anywhere near here. I have no doubt it is more prevalent in places like California where energy prices are high, much of those high costs attributable directly to actions taken by the state government and not market forces.

Since I can only relate what I have experienced directly at my place of work, there is no rooftop solar, no large amounts of natural lighting, or water recycling...unless you’re talking about the septic system that treats and returns water to the aquifer that feeds our well. The “large amounts of natural lighting” can make our location even less energy efficient, particularly taking in mind the weather conditions and temperatures we experience from late fall to early spring. Windows do not insulate nearly as well 6 or 8 inch walls filled with insulation. (It can quite often reach temperatures well below zero Fahrenheit, even during the day, during the depths of winter.)

Then there’s this:

One roadblock to counting home office emissions is that there is no standard on how or what to count. Microsoft Corp, trying to solve the problem itself, concluded that remote staff work eight hours a day using a laptop, two monitors and three lightbulbs.


But if heating a home office requires heating an entire house, how are emissions counted?

And if they are using a laptop, two monitors, and a bunch area lighting (or maybe task lighting), how much does that change emissions? I know that when I work from home here at The Gulch, I generally don’t need more than a single LED lamp in my office first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon, and then mostly during late fall through early spring. As long as the sun is above the horizon I don’t need a light in my home office. I also don’t need to heat the entire house to heat my home office as we have zoned heating. (Even then, the heat from my computer helps maintains the temperature in the office as long as I keep the door closed.) It also turns out the heat is turned up on the first floor around 7am because my mother lives here and she doesn’t like to be cold.

Yes, I understand the conditions in my home aren’t all that common, at least not in whole country, but it’s pretty common around most of the northern tier of the US.

I think the folks mentioned in the linked article need to rethink their assumptions about energy consumption by corporate offices versus home offices. Using Salesforce, Microsoft, and Meta as their models isn’t realistic or representative of most businesses. It’s too small a sample.

This is just as bad, if not worse than the claims that science, specifically astronomy, contributes to climate change. Considering a lot of science uses energy, that claim could be made about science in general...even climate science.