Ecosystem Spotlight

Blockchain and carbon emissions

Yesterday, the nonpartisan think tank, The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), released a report calling for “deep decarbonization.” At the moment, the authors state we are not on track to reducing carbon emissions to the degree necessary for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. This follows the current administration’s 1,656 page assessment claiming that the US could lose 10 percent of its GDP by the century’s end due to problems associated with climate.
ITIF lists six missions as critical in reducing our carbon footprint:

  • Advanced nuclear energy
  • Long-duration grid storage
  • Carbon-neutral fuels
  • Carbon capture, utilization, and storage
  • Carbon dioxide removal technology
  • Basic energy research

As noted throughout the report, tracking and accounting emissions are two of the greatest challenges in keeping tabs on how carbon output affecs the environment. In every one of the six missions, innovation is requested; at the moment, costs of fuel storage or carbon trapping techniques remain prohibitive. Add to this the fact that a number of industrial sectors, such as cement and steel, have not been factored into the equation when contemplating emissions reduction. As the authors conclude,

Reducing carbon pollution from these sectors to zero will require a sustained government commitment and investment commensurate with the challenge posed by these difficult-to-eliminate emissions.

The American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC) also released a report calling for innovation this week. As with ITIF, this bipartistan organization (which includes Bill Gates), calls for governmental intervention—in this case, to the tune of $16B annually to help create “advanced energy innovation.” They note the necessity for incentivizating companies to switch their energy sources. As you can see, the US is lagging far behind other nations in terms of investment.

The organization concludes with this high-level overview:

Acknowledging the relative strengths of both government and industry in the innovation process will be crucial to securing the long-term investment certainty needed to spearhead energy technology breakthroughs and ensure the nation’s continued energy dominance and leadership. Innovation has been key to America’s growth and success while enabling the country to overcome threats and challenges time and again. With renewed and targeted investments in energy R&D, the United States is well-positioned to seize the opportunities and face the challenges of tomorrow.

While carbon capture is a main focus of both reports, accounting and tracking are essential aspects of this and every process of monitoring problems associated with climate change. These are inherent problems in our bureaucracies. As was reported earlier this week, the Pentagon has just been called out for a massive accounting fraud. Lack of transparency is a continual issue in both government and business. This is not going to serve the future of our species well.
Though blockchain enthusiasts are sometimes criticized for dreaming too broadly, tracking carbon is a no-brainer. Swytch, for example, is already proving the validity of tracking emissions on-chain. The organization’s incentiviation program is an essential piece in addressing the economic problems cited in the above reports. It’s not the entire solution, but it’s a critical piece of it.
All the incentives in the world won’t matter when we don’t have a world to call home anymore. We’ve been warned about the dangers of climate change for decades. Now that we’re living through its consequences, how much more incentive do we need to change our relationship to energy?