On bottlenecks, carbon intensity, and resilience metrics

Christophe Jospe
Carbon A List
Published in
5 min readOct 31, 2023

Hi everyone,

Happy Halloween! Welcome to the October edition of the Carbon A List newsletter. Do you know someone who would enjoy our newsletter? Forward this email to them and they can subscribe here.

On bottlenecks

I was talking about bottlenecks with a colleague the other day who recommended “The Bottleneck Rules.” It’s a free, quick and easy read, and a useful guide for anyone working in a system to get things done and thinking about bottlenecks in the spirit of continuous improvement. The book recommends a pithy acronym to consider and act on bottlenecks, FOCCCUS: Find, Optimize, Coordinate, Collaborate, Curate, Upgrade, and Start again. Since systems do not happen in isolation, it’s critical to consider the “C’s”: and especially worth identifying the ways in which the people, elements, activities, tools, and information involved to get from point A to point B can more harmoniously work together. It’s important to note that not all bottlenecks are bad. Why do bottles have necks? To control the flow. In the realm of systems, technologies, and patterns, it’s worth understanding these flow controllers and the function they provide. The rules of bottlenecks don’t just apply to slick business optimization steps. They can be seen as limiting factors to scaling climate impact, and provide a lens to determine what is hindering (or critical for) the process of on the ground impact. Do you think about bottlenecks too? I’m genuinely curious about an example you’ve come across and how the FOCCCUS framework might resonate for you.

On Carbon Intensity

Tomorrow, we’re hosting an Off the Climate Record event “Exploring Carbon Intensity for Agricultural Production.” (To find out about these events more than a day in advance, you can subscribe to this mailing list for this series to get earlier access + freemium goodies for networking and sense-making). Unlike a carbon footprint, which is the absolute value of the carbon emissions associated with an activity (e.g., the total carbon emitted from a household, business, product, jurisdiction), Carbon Intensity (CI) scores are the rate of carbon emissions per unit activity. In theory, policies and incentives that lower CI scores can support decarbonization across many sectors. In practice, the nuances of accounting metrics have the risk of falling into a carbon myopic trap, providing a partial estimate, or lack transparency of the assessment. Not all CI scores are created equal, and there are many solid efforts to point to for improvement and harmonization of assessment methodologies. This is a space we’ll be tracking closely (and hopefully contributing to!) as part of our work in building consensus on Land Use Change Methodologies and in our USDA-funded project Transforming the Farmer to Consumer Supply Chain.

On resilience metrics

In the psychological sense, resilience relates to a sense of calm or settling in the midst of conflict and stress. If we bring that same sense to the environment or an agricultural operation, you might think about a time where there was a stress to the land in the form of a drought or flood and maybe even the resulting economic loss or conflict with FEMA or insurance organizations. The key here is that preparation is critical to calming the system. How do we best prepare and implement strategies that promote resilience? Measurement.

The resilience metrics that lead to that calm during or just after stressors to an operation or landscape bring a connection to risk mitigation, operational procedures, and scientific study. It’s a measure of where the rubber meets the road. Some interesting resources related to resilience metrics we have used in the past are as follows:

However, given the recent unexpected disaster from hurricane Otis that defied models and predictions perhaps the real question is which metrics should you focus on and which metrics can you actually measure accurately for useful predictions?

What I’m reading

  • What’s next now that the US Farm Bill has expired? Farm Progress. Uncertainty seems to be a certainty in agriculture, and in policy as well.
  • Bayer And Corteva Sell 50%+ of the Corn, Soybean and Cotton Seed in the U.S. Ag Webb. Consolidation trends of seed supply seem to be the norm. Maybe good for economies of scale, but concerning for farmer choice and food security.
  • USDA General Assessment of the Role of Agriculture and Forestry in US Carbon Markets, USDA. This document provides a comprehensive look at current US market activity, barriers to participation, and opportunities to improve access to carbon markets for farmers and forest landowners.
  • The Great Cash for Carbon Hustle, the New Yorker. The latest critical piece on carbon market design might have one wondering if these issues in the article are a feature, not a bug. While carbon markets may still have a crucial role to play within climate finance to balance atmospheric carbon levels while improving our ability to drive climate action, as this article points out, transparency is at the root of the issue, and the needed integrity of the markets can’t just be driven by self-interested parties who stand to profit on hot air. Subscribe to our Off the Climate record list to get an invite to the next unrecorded and nuanced conversation on the topic where we will convene informed and diverse perspectives.
  • Cancellation of Navigator CO2 pipeline raises critical issues for several industries, S&P Global Commodity Insights. Speaking of CI Scores and bottlenecks, the news earlier this month of canceling a pipeline that would transport up to 15 million metric tons of CO2 from over 30 ethanol plants per year is a good reminder of just how difficult it is to drive decarbonization when not fully taking into account the system beyond the technology alone needed to optimize the metric.

Referenced above:

Can you help?

  • We’re looking for a Director to take the project we’ve been working on building consensus in Land Use Change methodologies to the next level. This is a part-time contractor position with a budget that can increase due to your hand in fundraising. Please read the job description here and apply and share within your network to qualified applications!
  • We continue to look for talented people looking to pick up work and join our network. We are seeking qualified people for a number of roles as contractors on new and existing projects, as well as people we can vet and work with as we land additional project based work. If you are interested in contract work with us, or to be considered as we respond to proposals, please fill out this form.

Signed,

Christophe

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Christophe Jospe
Carbon A List

Climate change entrepreneur and consultant. Recovering from carbon exuberance. I like to stir the pot.