By Nora Germain
The climate crisis is probably the most complex challenge humanity has ever had to face, second to resettling humans on other planets. It’s arguably more complex than any war, and will likely be even more consequential, costly and deadly than the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the reason this challenge is so immense is because it involves all sectors of the economy and human behavior, but also because it has been allowed to go on relatively unchecked for so long. Nearly half of the emissions that humans have contributed to this global problem have been emitted since 1990 according to the IPCC.
Bill Gates was recently interviewed on 60 Minutes to talk about his investments in technologies that he believes will be most effective in the green/ clean energy age and the decarbonization economy of the future. His interview was inspiring, and interestingly, he introduced the topic by saying that, to paraphrase, humanity would need to coordinate on an unprecedented scale in order to solve this challenge. This sentiment is something that’s often referenced by RChain president Greg Meredith, and it’s one of the pillars of RChain’s ethos to facilitate such coordination efforts.
However, Bill Gates left out two important strategies that are, in addition to technology, crucial for solving the climate crisis and ecological breakdown. I believe there are actually at least three strategies that are needed in this fight for the future, and that humanity will not be successful in solving the climate crisis unless all three are implemented.
The first, of course, is technology. Bill Gates is right in saying that we will not slow, stop or reverse the climate crisis if we do not invest and innovate at a highly ambitious scale. Everywhere you look, there is a chance to innovate in a way that will help us with our global drawdown. That could include innovating the way we mine and recycle materials for cars, computers, phones and solar panels, replacing plastic with something biodegradable or less harmful, changing the way we make building materials and roads, innovating what we grow, what we eat and how we eat it, and more.
This technology sector would also include carbon capture technologies, revitalizing the energy sector to run on green energy, creating zero emission vehicles and planes, and so forth. There is a huge amount of progress that can be made in the technology sector, and these innovations cannot come fast enough — but they are not the whole solution.
The second strategy needed is conservation. We can innovate everything we consume, use, build and eat, but unless we are able to preserve and expand protected natural places like forests, coral reefs and other wildlife areas, we could find ourselves in a booming zero-carbon economy in which mass extinction only becomes more accelerated and our wild areas become less and less habitable for the millions of species that live in them.
This would be a catastrophe, because the climate crisis is really a crisis of two different but interconnected puzzles. The first is the decarbonization puzzle, largely a heat problem which itself causes many other problems, but the second is a biodiversity problem, which is a pollution problem, an overfishing problem, a deforestation problem and so forth. While both the temperature (carbon) problem and the biodiversity (extinction) problem often intersect, they both need to be faced and solved.
Conservation is a huge part of solving the climate crisis because trees, and in particular, old growth trees with expansive networks of other living things like moss and mushrooms growing in, under and around them, store huge amounts of carbon. The oceans also store a large amount of the carbon in our atmosphere, so saving the old growth forests and oceans and helping them thrive and heal is one of the easiest and most effective ways to not only draw down carbon but to also help solve the biodiversity and extinction crisis.
Furthermore, indigenous tribes all around the world have immense knowledge of the ecosystems they live in, and it’s long past time for the western economies to respect and learn from the knowledge that they have acquired. Indigeous people are the natural and lawful stewards of their lands, and in many places like the Amazon Rainforest, their land is under constant attack by people who among other things wish to make furniture or graze cattle for hamburgers.
While it may be technically “legal,” it doesn’t mean it’s moral. The way that these tribes have been treated all around the world is not only a human rights violation, but also a waste of a sacred and invaluable service that they provide to everyone on our shared planet — preservation of natural environments. The rewilding, protecting and expanding of these lands is crucial.
The third strategy needed to solve the climate crisis is coordination. Bill Gates mentioned this in his interview but what was not mentioned was the potential for technologies like blockchain and others to facilitate and inspire the kind of coordination needed to solve these problems. Coordination can mean a lot of things to different people, but to me it means that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the solutions that are so desperately needed.
Where governments can contribute with legislation, regulation and funding, or mandate cleanups and so forth, they must. Where individuals can contribute with local actions and leading by example, truly using their purchasing power and other means to mobilize, they must. Where young activists are able to organize peaceful protests or contribute meaningful presentations to world leaders, they must. Where wealthy business leaders can invest, deploy new teams and utilize their resources in manufacturing and so forth, they must. Coordination to me is a coming together of everyone who wants to be part of a solution feeling fulfilled in that purpose.
RChain’s goal from the beginning was to create a blockchain that could be used as more than just a payments system, but could provide the framework for more meaningful, democratic and scalable coordination efforts to take place. It’s likely that there will not be one blockchain for the future but many, and similarly, there will not be just one solution to the climate crisis, but a number of solutions that work together to look at a problem from all angles so that there are no people or places left behind.
2021 is a very exciting year for climate progress. The United States has new leadership and has officially rejoined the Paris Climate Accords, but it has also just passed 500,000 COVID-related deaths (meaning that if the person had not become sick with COVID, they would not have died). This is a horrible tragedy, but also a sign that the United States has a long way to go on the coordination front, and that we must urgently pursue problem solving techniques and strategies that are at the same scale as the problem, not only in the US but all over the world. What way(s) do you hope to contribute in solving the climate crisis?