“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
The Associated Press reported on Sunday, December 10, that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “the world’s efforts to stop climate change have been ‘utterly inadequate’ so far and there is a danger global warming could pass the ‘point of no return.’” (Politico)
Whether the U.N. Secretary-General is right, or Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is correct in that we only have twelve years left on this planet—remains to be seen. Humanity has always found a way to mitigate a crises and adapt. Or, as it turns out in many cases perceived threats by science today have been debunked by better science tomorrow. Regardless of whether the science is right—which most people today believe that it is—it is prudent to address issues of climate change and over use of carbon emissions where ever it’s produced.
Many are now looking at what blockchain technology may be able to do to help save our very own planet.
Blockchain Use Cases That Can Save the Planet
While there are many blockchain use cases, the following potential blockchain use case examples address energy and how to incentivize both company and individual behavior. The authors of Future Thinkers reviewed a number of blockchain use case applications that address how to best mange our planet’s energy needs.
Creating Energy Efficiencies
Electrical power systems can be made more efficient with blockchain. Traditional power grids are centralized, which can result in inefficient power distribution, and result in unused surplus. A peer to peer (P2P) “blockchain based energy system” may be able to reduce the need of transmitting electricity over long distances—mitigating losses along the way.
Moreover, a P2P system can work toward reducing the need for energy storage. This is because trading power will be able to move an oversupply of electricity produced in one locale to where it’s needed.
Projects working to solve this problem.
Transactive Grid: A joint venture between ConsenSys and LO3 Energy.
SunContract: A blockchain-based P2P trading platform for solar and other renewables.
According to Kimberly Amadeo, in writing for The Balance, a “carbon tax is a fee that a government imposes on any company that burns fossil fuels”. These include products such as coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas. In the current system, the environmental impact of each product is difficult to measure. And its carbon footprint isn’t factored into the price. As a result, consumers and companies have little incentive to buy or sell, respectively, products with a low carbon footprint.
Blockchain can be used to track the carbon footprint of each product. With blockchain the data is immutable and protected from tampering. The data can be used to quantify the carbon tax to be charged at the point of sale. If a product with a large carbon footprint is more expensive to buy—buyers will gladly change and buy more environmentally friendly products, and encourage companies to “restructure their supply chains to meet the demand for such products”.
Moreover, according to Future Thinkers, a reputable blockchain system could assign a company and product score “based on the carbon footprint of the products they sell”—making manufacturing transparent, and discouraging “wasteful and environmentally unfriendly practices.”
Today @IBM CEO Ginni Rometty joined 75+ CEOs & unions in signing a letter urging action on #climatechange & supporting the #ParisAgreement. But this is about more than a letter…it's about action. That's why today we announce our support of a #carbontax: https://t.co/SSCl93XPJf pic.twitter.com/PCc9PFqBsM
— IBMPolicy (@IBMpolicy) December 2, 2019
Human nature is always driven by self-interest. And—incentives are a proven and powerful motivator. However, incentivizing behavior needs to be directly correlated to a desired outcome. In our complex world it isn’t always easy for individuals or companies to see the direct effects of their actions. This is just as true for environmentally friendly incentives. Incentives used to reward individuals and companies for acting in an environmentally sustainable way isn’t always clear.
With blockchain technology, individuals and companies can “see the real impact of their actions and incentivize them to take the actions that benefit the environment”. (Future Think)
The properties of blockchain’s distributed ledger technology allows interested parties to transparently track a number of data points—such as the carbon footprint of each product: greenhouse gas, the amount of a factory’s waste emissions, a company’s history of compliance to environmental standards, and more. In this way—companies and individuals can see a direct correlation to their actions and be incentivized to act in an environmentally sustainable way. Thus—with accurate data, token based credits can be issued for “taking certain actions, or blockchain-based reputation systems.”
The Book of Genesis commands us to take care of and to manage the planet. In many cases we have done a good job. In other cases we have not. The planet is here for us. And it’s up to us to manage it so that we can have a long and environmentally healthy planet to sustain life for millennia to come.
By using blockchain to reduce inefficient use of energy can change what drives our economy. This benefits not only our current generation—but generations to come.