The Futility of Some Actions or its just Measurement Uncertainty

I had a career shift in 2016 from performing greenhouse gas (GHG) verification on the field to climate policy particularly on the transparency aspects of climate reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by national entities.

Majority of my GHG verification assignments since 2012 were for Oil and Gas companies establishing baselines for emission reduction targets way before the Paris Agreements. At that time, multinational firms account and report their GHG emissions from across borders given their scope of financial and operational control. Non-Annex I countries of the Kyoto Protocol have part of their emissions reported in Annex I countries by these multinational entities. However, I am not sure if the scope and boundary between in-country emissions and entity level emissions from abroad are delineated in the reports of these multinational firms.

Its COP 26 again and the 2021 Production Gap report will be presented in one of its side events. Starting my GHG verification career in oil and gas with guidance from the American Petroleum Institute (API) made me realize there is a huge disconnect between these emission sources and the people negotiating climate policy. I am assuming that this report came up because of the quality of data sourced from oil and gas companies reporting their GHG emissions. Based on experience, this data is extremely good. These are data sourced from flowmeters that have undergone precision calibration as required by GHG auditors. I remember our findings all are almost always limited on reducing the uncertainty of measurement.

Not siding with these sources of emissions, some countries still consider their oil and gas reserves with a sense of national pride even in the age of global warming and climate change. These natural resources are often supporting independence and nationalistic movements particularly in once colonized countries stemming from the oil embargo of the 1970s.

My stance is not really to protect this industry but for the quality requirements of their GHG reporting practices to be adopted by other industries such as agriculture, land use and industrial processes. The current climate reporting scheme excludes maritime and aviation emissions, there is still so much data gaps and uncertainty we face.

We are in a crisis and there is so much uncertainty in terms of information sources or the uncertainty brought about the crisis? Its always a chicken and egg scenario.

20 years when I formally started to work for the environment

Most of my peers were working on IT, healthcare, manufacturing, etc. but it seems I don’t have anyone from my childhood that decided to take the road and work for the environment formally. In the 90s during my undergraduate years in college very few of us in our batch decided to specialize in natural resource economics though at that time, the Kyoto protocol was a big thing happening globally and the term “carbon trading” was emerging. I think it was that point that working for an environment was something I could do formally and at the same time be passionate about.

My first formal job was an assistant for a business school going for its ISO 14001 certification. I took the role instead of going into banking, finance or even diplomacy work. It was my first foray into the Montreal Protocol when the school building’s chiller system refrigerant was replaced from CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) to HCFC (hydrochlorfluorocarbon). The fact that they replaced an ozone depleting substance with another ozone depleting substance that is less potent is unthinkable now, well it still happens when information is not adequately provided.

Quite happy at what I am doing but I hope more will get into this line of work or passion. My family thought I was just an activist working for an NGO and they could not understand why I keep on going back to school getting degrees that were unheard of during my parent’s generation. They were also wondering why I kept on travelling for work, some even perceived I was a flight attendant because of the constant trips. I am writing this post to just blurt out that we need more people working for the environment, they can be engineers, lawyers, physicians, etc. but everyone should take the current climate crisis seriously. Remember that “exclusivity is a work of the ego”, it is not love. If your really love what you have, you should be able to share the information (not your spouse).

The first part of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is already out and for the 6th time providing evidence on the empirical basis for climate change. This part of the IPCC report is the Climate Science, and I am still looking forward for the next two (2) reports for robust evidence for Climate Action. The report of Working Group 2 on Adaptation and the output of Working Group 3 on Mitigation which I have been working on more closely.

In addition to robust scientific evidence, these reports are a means of validation that what I am working on is important and of value to society and to the world.

From Hubris to Conformity

I would drop by the office in the morning and look out the window. I am grateful I am truly enjoying my work right now. Be grateful for your blessings, even more will come…I miss field work though.

I just got off a meeting with an international expert on the ISO 14090 standard on Climate Change Adaptation. From an auditor using the ISO standard to “hole in a wall” organizations that need to comply with government regulations, I now have the opportunity to assist a country in establishing a system for reporting to UNFCCC. The ISO expert noted that this could be a good case study for COP 26 in Glasgow but things were not really working well on the ground. Everything seems to be on hold.

Climate change can be quite complicated given the abbreviations and acronyms, it had become elitist and institutions established by countries seemed to be stuck in their ivory towers looking down on everyone because they have the pleasure of reporting to the world what is happening in their respective countries. With the Paris Agreement from hubris there should be shift towards a conformity mindset. Conformity not in the “Big Brother” sense but in the standardization sense.

If there is no conformity, non-conformity (NC) is issued to demonstrate non-fulfillment of requirements. There were instances when certain organizations create a big deal out of NCs that you are forced to downgrade it to an observation or an opportunity for improvement. Then again this becomes an issue of transparency. With the Paris Agreements, they are now calling for an Enhanced Transparency Framework or ETF. What if the climate action is non-fulfilling its goal and target? You just let it be.

Objectified among the crowd

Photo by cottonbro on

This is going to be my first post on public health. I don’t even have a category on that and I put this under QHSE. I don’t think I’m an expert on this topic yet, I still feel a greater need to learn epidemiology, biostatistics and other disciplines on public health, there is still a strong urge for me to learn more.

I just had my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine and it was total chaos. At times, solutions to public health concerns only take leadership and creativity or some form of honesty, humility or seeing the bigger picture and systems thinking in solving problems. Is that too much to ask? Yes, health workers are stressed but we should not condone the immaturity of some of them that they magnify problems that can be easily solved on the ground.

In going back to graduate school in a public health institution, I did take the initiative to bring in new perspectives to classmates and colleagues even in just choosing the right air conditioner for their healthcare facility. Often, we need to hear feedback and see an alternative perspective of how other people see things. Self-regulation is essential though, not to bloat problems but to find creative solutions in order to achieve greater things.

Going back to my vaccination experience, I realized that I do look younger than my actual age which is both a blessing and a curse. I am already taking my maintenance medications for my chronic age-confounded illnesses. On the negative side, at first glance I am immediately glanced at as a naïve young woman in need of “damsel-in-distress” assistance rather than a professional seeking systems-approach solutions leading to efficiency and innovation. As Britney Spears once sang “I’m not that innocent”. I hate being singled out in the crowd because I look young and naïve which is translated as easily controlled and manipulated into misogynistic compliance. God, I’m way too old for that…

Though thank you for telling me that I look like I’m in late 20s or early 30s, not sure what the benefits are since physical appearances can’t bring you much beyond first impressions based on experience. 10% discount on milk tea? No way, my blood glucose levels don’t go for that anymore.

From conformity assessment to international development, there’s more

I guess I have come a long way in my career since I started out in lowly and menial jobs in the early 2000s (research assistantship when in fact it was just photocopying journal articles and binding documents for distribution). I was reading the material though and learned so much from this informal access to information and knowledge.

I did my best to invest in myself through training, education and accepting challenging work experiences that pushes me out of my comfort zone (i.e. Yamal LNG). I naturally have the courage and fortitude to go on an adventure to truly explore the world. I hope age does not stop me from doing it. The pandemic may have constrained these opportunities but I am certain things will fall into place.

I am now 41 and my kids are growing up fast, my eldest is now an adult. Strangely, I can already find time to do stuff that I thought were not possible after getting married and having kids. My relatives are now encouraging me to study abroad and finally pursue my academic temptation. I’ve realized that my family is out there ready to help in taking over in some of my responsibilities. At times, it is our mindsets that block the kindness and compassion from others.

Five years ago, I thought I was happy working on conformity assessment, but I was never satisfied. I didn’t expect that I would find an opportunity to work for international development and being recognized for it. However, I am still not fully settled and satisfied. I am now eyeing summer school short courses in the Netherlands and the United States by 2022 to prepare for potential doctorate studies which I once decided to forego after getting married in 2013. Now I’m determined even if my projects for the Germans are running until 2024. Time flies fast at midlife but I am thankful I still have the courage and the motivation to do it. I just believe that I am destined to do it.

I once thought that settling for something will be the source of my ultimate happiness but I was the kind of person that can allow myself to continuously accept challenges and always move out of my comfort zone. These are all external things that are all passing and fleeting. You just have to deal with it and not run away from it. That is the hard lesson I have learned in my life. Regardless of my career, my family status, my desires or whatever, these are all temporary. I hate that I am starting to get philosophical and spiritual in this blog, this is all about my work in the environment that I am totally enjoying it at the moment.

Forays into Energy

Inside the DOE Test Chambers in 2021 during R&D work on energy efficient air conditioners

My first trip to the Department of Energy was in 2004, a naïve 24 year old who had a string of horrible past relationships, one mishap led me to become pregnant out of wedlock. A geologist colleague of mine brought me along…to look for a husband, probably someone with a PhD because I’m too weird and complicated with a laser focus on environmental protection and I was working on coal development and production (the irony!). Maybe someone with a PhD could understand, at least someone who is open to learning and open-minded enough to discover things with me.

At that time, the Market Market mall was still under construction and the facility was surrounded by open spaces and military barracks overrun by cogon grass. I was working for a local construction company that has a coal operating contract for development and production and I was assigned to support in completing the necessary requirement for the environmental impact statement. I was enjoying my work so much and finding another man was not my priority. I was struggling to make ends meet and at times I was financially strapped but deep inside I know I am onto something valuable though its not big at that time.

My geologist colleague was so disappointed that I did not end up marrying someone who has a PhD. It took years for me to achieve financial security from what I do. Sadly I have to be stuck in an unhealthy relationship not really thinking much about it because the work I’m doing is so exciting and I was just keeping steadfast about my goal on working for the environment and now I am making it in climate change.

I was inside a Balanced Ambient Type Environmental Chamber testing unitary air conditioners. Achieving balance in life is hard. Balancing various aspects of your life is difficult, I have to forego certain responsibilities because I was drawn to other concerns. I have to accept that my marriage was horrible and after years of physical separation, co-dependence and manipulative behaviors, it is not worth saving. I was not discerning in that aspect when I was younger, I thought having a significant other is enough but the lack of spiritual connection and emotional depth in our relationship only made us miserable over the years. He was manipulative enough to convince me to quit certain jobs and projects because it is making him feel uncomfortable and I have to deal with his irrational jealousy over my colleagues.

I ended up spending more time and effort on my work and even added more responsibilities by going back to graduate school again. The academic temptation was so hard to resist especially when it is within your reach and everyone in your professional circle is hinting that that I should pursue a PhD. It was I who wants a PhD and finding someone with a PhD to be your significant other is a form of psychological projection which I guess is dysfunctional behavior, but I was giddy and excited. I need all the prayers I can get to get out of this mess. I also need to look deeply within me, what are my motivations, what are my values what is my core faith and beliefs.

Transformational Change

This does not define me.

Not sure if I will have the courage to post this on my Facebook and Linkedin accounts to drive in traffic to my blog, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I am already associated with refrigeration and air conditioning and I am starting to feel uncomfortable about it. I only started working on the Cool Contributions fighting Climate Change project in 2016 but I am already being associated with fluorinated greenhouse gases particularly hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs.

Over the course of the quarantine, I spent my free time reading spiritual self-help books and lots of articles on the evils of the human ego. Honestly, I don’t want to be associated with HFCs and air conditioners or whatever cooling equipment. The truth is, I am not defined by this. I am not defined by my career and I am not defined by my relationships. I have to live by the Spirit and be my authentic self.

It may seem positive that I am leaving a mark on an industry or for fighting climate change. Though positive, this does not define me, I should treat it with the same open mindedness and acceptance as the negative comments towards me like being complicated and demanding. Be grateful for everything, but your true self is not defined by the perception of the world.

Not really that small

Working on safety and efficiency of household appliances and other devices is not really that small if you consider the scale of how these stuff are used. Regardless whether you are working on large climate change mitigation projects or contributing to small snippets of minor initiatives, you must consider your work as valuable. It must provide depth and meaning to your authentic self in terms of your work. After almost 20 years, I am consistently still working for the environment and now my role has never been this critical due to the issue of climate change.

Honestly, this is a point in my life where I guess I am now reaping the fruits of my past efforts. I have experienced the shift from being so detail oriented trying so hard to prove myself to just overseeing the work of my junior colleagues and relaxing. Trusting that they can deliver. I don’t have to be that cranky and obnoxious senior staff because I am pretty much secure of what I have and just expecting the best from what they can give.

I could not care much about the comments, views, perspectives or judgments about my line of work that I once experienced in my mid 20s. I guess I have proved them wrong that I am working on something serious and not just a hobby or just fighting for a cause without much substance. I truly need younger people to help me on this, to understand that this is not just some passing fad and there are problems that need to be addressed through climate action even if that means working on the small stuff.

The Little Things

Before, I was involved in big things which include big stuff from oil and gas projects, my HSE foray in Yamal LNG was the biggest challenge a boss gave me, we had fatalities on record and I have to support my superiors in taking accountability as the health and safety focal. Accounting for GHG emissions was the least of my concerns. Though natural gas is low carbon compared to coal and petroleum, I was still working for one of the biggest source of emission in the world. If the Yamal gas reserves can be calculated as CO2 released in the atmosphere over a period of time, it may still overtake the energy transition rate making net zero longer and further into the future. Nobody is looking at it.

If only people at climate policy could see the amount of resources invested in getting the gas out of the cold, it seems the energy transition is at a turtle’s pace globally. Anyway, the emission will be accounted by the end user and not the source of fuel. They will only account for what they have used for their own power generation or leaks in the system, and of course the flare. It has to be flared for reasons of safety. In the end, the resource owner will still profit from this. Do we really need a think tank for this?

I think what we need is someone like Saint Paul, who got converted in Damascus. We all need that conversion to get a larger perspective and bigger picture. To be emphatic enough to see what the other is seeing or feeling about it.

I could not truly say that I am working on small stuff right now. Work on climate policy is still essential and making window-type air conditioners achieve ultra efficiency is still extremely relevant. What matters is that I am thankful and grateful for everyone I have encountered on working on fighting climate change. At times, you can be on both sides but do not lose the vision, the mission and the goal.

Lost my confidence in you a long time ago

At my age, I’m way too old for bull…lies do happen in consumer products, but nothing currently stops these companies from pursuing environmental claims. This is obviously Greenwash again, another environmental declaration that was not verified and have not undergone a process of assessing its integrity.