Top 5 Friday – September 5

Happy iPhone preorder day! Here are some stories we're reading, including some about the sustainability of tech.

1. Industry leaders to discuss mining’s sustainable future at IMARC

By: Daniel Gleeson, International Mining, Sept. 8, 2022

A greener future will require more mining than ever before, meaning collaboration and the adoption of new technologies across the industry’s entire value chain is no longer an option, but a necessity, organisers of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) say.

“Fortunately, with data and computing power, we can offer that transparency. Apple, for example, could say to the consumer who’s purchasing an iPhone or an iPad: ‘we know for sure that we’re providing a carbon neutral or low carbon product’.”

2. The Guardian view on rare earths: mining them can’t cost the Earth

Editorial, The Guardian, Aug. 18, 2022

Crucially, climate solutions – such as solar energy, wind energy and electric vehicles – depend on rare earth elements, which have unique magnetic and luminescent properties. The trouble is that their production and disposal is environmentally destructive. It is worrying, therefore, that the European Union this week said that it wants lower regulatory barriers to mining raw materials needed for a green transition.

Consumers would notice if supplies were disrupted. Rare earths are critical to clean energy technologies used today; every Toyota Prius has more than 9kg (20 lb) of lanthanum in its battery. It’s not only the future of the planet at stake, it’s the future of our defence too. Nato is almost 100% dependent on rare earth imports from China. A US Virginia-class submarine requires about four tonnes of rare earth materials.

3. Here's how much metal it takes to make your iPhone
Jeremy Berke, Business Insider, Jul 11, 2018

Aluminum comprises around 24% of an iPhone's mass, followed by iron, which makes up around 14% of the device's mass, according to a breakdown from Motherboard. Copper and cobalt comprise around 6% and 5% of the phones mass.

Aluminum is one of the most abundant metals in the Earth's crust, though it doesn't exist in a pure state in nature. Instead, it's produced by refining bauxite ore. Canada is the largest exporter of aluminum to the US, while China is the world's biggest aluminum producer.

4. Why heat waves become deadly

The Carbon Copy Podcast, Sept. 8, 2022

Over Labor Day weekend, California was blanketed by a record-breaking heatwave. Fresno reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit, Sacramento, 114 degrees Fahrenheit. The state asked residents to cut their power use, and only narrowly avoided blackouts.

Heatwaves are the deadliest weather event in the United States every year. Extreme heat is an environmental justice issue, as it affects low-income and communities of color disproportionately. This week on the show, producer Alexandria Herr took a deep dive to try to understand how heat waves become so deadly, and how cities can protect people from the heat.

5. Bringing it back from last year: How did aluminum get so expensive?

Amanda Peacher, Marketplace, Sep 7, 2021