Why Trump is right to opt out of the Paris Accord?

Yeah, i know… It shocked me too. Who would have thought that i would, one day, agree with him?!

In fact, i don’t, but i thought it would be a good trick to make you click. Leaving the Paris accord is a stupid decision and the justifications are even more laughable. Thankfully, many cities have decided to keep their engagement (86% of the U.S. population is urban and U.S. cities have the power to get about nearly 50% of the way towards the per-capita carbon emission reductions) and it gave Emmanuel Macron the opportunity to troll Trump with the Make our Planet great again video. That was epic!

But here’s the thing. There are two different approach to solving the climate change problem:

1/ lowering the carbon emission, which is the approach of the Paris agreement;

And 2/ transforming the existing CO2.

Lowering the emission

When you are doing something that makes you sick, the best (first) step is to stop doing it. Sounds obvious right? In this case, we only need to lower our level of emissions (lower is the key word). This part is usually well covered by the media, even though i am a little bogged that nuclear technology is not talked about more.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the embodied total life-cycle emission intensity of fission electricity is the lowest out of all commercial baseload energy sources, and second lowest out of all commercial electricity technologies known, after wind power which is an Intermittent energy source. But yeah, i know, you will want to talk about the disaster risks (Fukishima, Chernobyl), the weapon risks, and the waste risks. To which i would answer by inviting you to watch Taylor Wilson talk about his new design. It answers all of those points: recycling nuclear weapons, no disaster risks, higher yield.

But lowering the emissions should only be a first step. It is critical to understand this point. CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years, so things don’t get better when you stop emitting it. To save you from an overdose or poisoning, doctors needs to pump your stomach. Same thing here!

Transforming CO2

To put it another way, it is good to stop polluting the Chicago river, but i still wouldn’t bathe or fish in it (unless you are trying to gain superpowers) until all pollutants have been removed!

So how could we do that? Interestingly enough, there is no carbon waste in nature. Instead, there is a carbon cycle: carbon dioxide is emitted and captured, then emitted and captured again… Any resemblance with the show Prison Break is entirely coincidental! It is just a natural part of the photosynthetic process.

We are talking about saving the planet, so why not implementing a solution based on its own mechanisms?

The real problem is not CO2

If there is carbon in the natural state of Nature, it means that the problem is not carbon in itself. The real problem is that we are dumping it at a much faster rate than Nature can deal with. To mitigate that, one could imagine two “simple” solutions: 1/ we could go back to the level of CO2 that Nature can handle, though the first papers warning about climate change are dated back to 1896 — Prof Svante Arrhenius. I don’t know about you, but anything prior to 2015 looks like primitive age to me; or 2/ we find and duplicate ecosystems within nature where the carbon cycle is sped up (recycle CO2 faster and in larger quantities).

The era of microorganisms

People, meet microorganisms! Microorganisms are Nature’s chemical refineries. Bacteria break down dead organisms, animal waste, and plant litter to obtain nutrients. But microbes don’t just eat nature’s waste, they recycle it. The process of decomposition releases chemicals (such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus) that can be used to build new plants and animals. That is, chemicals that used to be a flower or a vegetable will eventually become part of another living thing.

Yeurk, disgusting!! Make sure to say that next time you are having wine/beer and cheese. So… Cheer’s bacteria!

The question becomes can we harness the power of supercharged microbes and leverage them so we could solve our carbon issue? Kiverdi says yes!

Carbon engineering

The company creates specialized environments (basically duplicating the natural conditions of where you find those supercharged bacteria) in order to cultivate the bacteria and use them to recycle CO2 very quickly.

Yep, and that’s all the beauty of it, this is a recycling process. Recycling = converting (waste) into reusable material. So what do they do with carbon? The first application was to produce oil. I can see your disappointment: “what? oil? wake me up when it starts to get serious!”. Well WAKE UP!! Not only they can customize the oil, but they created a substitute for palm oil, which is used in a variety of industrial application (~50% of consumer products are manufactured using palm oil) and is responsible for a lot of deforestation (with all the impacts on biodiversity etc.).

Gigantic potential

Kiverdi is turning a low cost carbon waste into a high value chemical. Microorganisms use carbon dioxide waste to turn it into fuel for their ecosystem. The technology can be deployed wherever there is carbon waste or trash that you could combust. It can be configured locally to address specific waste problems and local production needs.

The process is much faster than natural production (hours vs. months), doesn’t require sunlight (can grow in the dark, meaning any location, any time) and requires minimum space (can grow in containers vs. extensive land).

What it really means is that we can start to rethink the way we grow food. Instead of having large portion of lands reserved to grow crops, we could grow them in “labs”, using the technology to accelerate the process and produce much higher yield per square meters: the technology allows for vertical agriculture (stack containers on top of containers).

Now i can reveal the twist behind the provocative title: more CO2 will feed more bacteria that will produce more food. Or how to solve two problems at once.

Climate change is a real and massive threat to the economy, national security (the Arab spring started because of a drought that drove food prices up), health and human rights. Unfortunately, it doesn’t score very high on the Human threat detector because climate change:

  • is “not visible” — i can see the lion looking at me with his eyes saying “dinner time”, but i can’t really see the ice cap melting;
  • have “no precedent” — i am afraid of a fire arm because i saw how it can kill somebody, but climate change hasn’t happened before in human memory;
  • is not immediate — if i get robbed, it is happening now, while the effect of climate change are happening overtime;
  • doesn’t have direct, identifiable personal impacts — if you stay within the baseball’s trajectory, you, personally, will get hit, while climate change’s “attacks” are unpredictable and have indirect impacts (drought etc.);
  • doesn’t have simple causality — if you don’t hit the brakes, you will hit the car in front of you, climate change impacts ecosystems;
  • is not caused by an enemy — if climate change was caused by ISIS, we would react right now.

If our internal alert system doesn’t push us to act now, we have to bypass it. Macron has to make good on his promise and fund companies like Kiverdi. We, as consumers, need to be engaged and start pushing for industries to consider alternatives!

Stay tuned… to save the world!