Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
December 14, 2018 (posted December 17, 2018)

Mr. President:  Humans are an interesting species ... instead of seeing eye-to-eye,
they see eye-to-nose.  They focus on the present and themselves, particularly where
their comfort is concerned, no matter how dire the predictions for the future.

Although they are now over, such has been evident at the climate change talks in
Katowice, Poland.  An effort to mandate the Paris agreement, in light of the dire 1.5C
report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has been stymied
repeatedly by Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait.  Particularly disturbed are
island countries like the Maldives that are literally disappearing with sea-level rise.  
Unbelievably, one of the last spats was on the word "welcoming" as in welcoming the
IPCC 1.5C report.  It has been changed to "welcomes the timely completion of ... " in
the final draft.

The serious sticking point is Article 6.  It deals with country plans and is of special
concern to the poorer countries promised financial support.  But to obtain it
Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of carbon emissions reduction is sought
by donor agencies and private sector groups.

Thus Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is an international organization promoting
balanced economic growth, that is without harming the environment.  It can help
prepare a low emissions development strategy by assisting in developing viable MRV
schemes.   It has for Colombia, Fiji and Mongolia, and is pursuing the same for others
like Laos, Mozambique, Nepal and Senegal among others,  Sri Lanka, a vulnerable
island nation, has developed MRV systems for energy and transportation but requires
help in other areas like agriculture, animal husbandry and industrial emissions.

The terms of financial support are crucial for such countries to fulfill their obligations.  
The 'haves' have to be generous and the need for verification is clear as well as
necessary incentives to bring in the private sector voluntarily.  Though a compromise,
the new draft text walks the extra mile for developing countries.

Meanwhile Brazil, heavily invested in the old clean development mechanism, dug in its
heels on carbon markets and trade (also Article 6).  No settlement.  On this one they
have kicked the can down the road to 2019.  Negotiations are not going to be any
easier with Jair Bolsonaro the incoming president.  That's in the future.  Right now it's
time to get back home for the holidays.

While they present the new "rulebook" in Katowice, there is some good news of
developments in clean solar energy and carbon capture:   

A solar tower absorbs heat form an array of rotating mirrors (heliostats) focusing the
sun's rays on to it.  Inside this solar absorber is a special salt solution.  Heated to high
temperatures, it, in turn, heats water in an adjacent boiler converting it into steam to
drive turbines and generate electricity.

The highly corrosive salts in the solution damage the towers.  However, as reported in
Renewable Energy, researchers have now found a way to add another five years or
so to tower life.  Silicon Carbide is presently the preferred containment material.  The
researchers discovered that adding Aluminum Nitride to make a composite not only
improved conductivity performance but resisted corrosion more effectively.

The second good thing:  In the UK, large-scale Carbon Capture and Usage (CCUS) is
to be implemented in fuel-intensive industries like steel, cement production and oil
refining, and a new solvent-based CO2 Capture Technology appears promising.  The
captured gas can be recycled into blast furnaces, used to bind concrete, recover oil,
and used even in pharmaceutical processes and decaffeinating coffee.  As Dr Fatih
Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency observed, "Without CCUS
as part of the solution, reaching our international climate goals is practically

The first carbon capture and usage project of this type is lined up for the 2020s with
the scaled-up projects scheduled for the 2030s.  There were 102 carbon capture
projects globally at the end of 2017 with 53 in the US.  The nature and scope of these
can be ascertained through an interactive map displayed by Third Way.

All in all not too bad a week for the planet, and a resuscitated Paris agreement albeit
with compromises.  But as noted in the beginning, such is the nature of us humans.