Canada Is Ready To Be a Global Environmental Leader Using Blockchain
As 2017 ends, 194 out of 195 countries have signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, including Canada. The United States is the only country not in the agreement after the election of President Donald Trump.
This momentous occasion, in parallel with the recent rise of the blockchain technology, couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
What used to be seen as a politically subversive technology is now recognized by influential global groups such as the World Economic Forum, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the United Nations.
From developing nations affected by climate change to developed nations beginning to feel the burn, the world is waking up to the interconnectedness of social problems. Canada, with its robust blockchain ecosystem and favourable stance on climate change, can be a world leader in this area.
Software used to eat the world
Websites back in the Dot Com Bubble and mobile apps of the mid-2000’s to early-2010’s revolutionized interconnectedness through technology. As technology progresses, hardware and tokens are in the midst of eating this world.
Ideally, a globally scaled-up version or “killer app” that could tackle climate change en masse will require the Computing Trinity to work in concert. This killer app would begin with a decentralized system (blockchain) of renewables and sustainable sources of energy (IoT) that is optimized to produce energy inputs (AI). This system would be secure, transparent, and optimized to enable dynamic trading of energy outputs (digital currencies).
Blockchain has the power to enable developing nations to leapfrog developed nations and with the recent logarithmically falling prices in solar and wind power, a future of renewable power grids is fast-approaching.
The three major use cases of blockchain in the environment
Despite that ideal setting not yet being a reality, the blockchain technology is already moving the dial towards a more sustainable future.
Tangibles & Goods: Supply Chain, Logistics & Transportation, and the Product Lifecycle
Most people would support ethically made products, but that information is often unavailable and difficult to validate.
For the most part, supply chains lack visibility and transparency.
Information is often opaque about materials used, garbage dumped, or how fairly they treat employees. Blockchains can track products from seed-to-shelf, preventing waste, inefficiency, fraud, and unethical practices. Foodtrax and Provenance are examples of blockchain companies working towards this end.
Within the trucking industry, for example, one factors that determines cost is capacity monitoring. By applying IoT sensors to detect the amount of space a particular party uses, one can determine the cost associated with shipment.
Pouring that data into a smart-contract enabled blockchain-based system further enables one to develop a self-executing payment solution based on the amount of space used by the freight. Opensea is a blockchain company working within the realm of overseas shipments.
Intangibles & Services: Value Chain, For-Profits & Nonprofits, and the Law
Blockchain-based money could even be released automatically to the correct parties in response to meeting specific environmental targets. In the current system, environmental impact is difficult to determine, and carbon footprint is not factored into the price. This means there is little incentive for consumers to buy low-carbon products, and little incentive for companies to sell them.
Blockchain could discourage corporations and governments from back-pedalling on their environmental promises or misreporting their progress. This happens because blockchain enables one to transparently track environmental data and show whether commitments were met. It helps individuals and companies see the impact of their actions and incentivizes both to take environmentally-friendly actions. It can also track a variety of data like carbon footprint, the greenhouse gas emissions, or a company’s history of environmental standards compliance.
Dynamically calculating the amount of carbon tax is easier when blockchain tracks all the data at once. Products with large carbon footprints would be more expensive to buy, thus encouraging consumers to buy more eco-friendly products. This consumer behaviour induces companies to restructure their supply chains for the better.
A blockchain-based reputation system also gives each company a score based on the carbon footprint of the products they sell.
Companies working in this area include BitGive (giving), BitHope (crowdfunding), and Poseidon (carbon trading).
Energy: Peer-to-Peer, Utilities, and Cryptomining
Traditional power grids are centralized and often have inefficiencies in energy distribution, such as unused surplus. A blockchain energy system system reduces the need to transmit electricity over long distances, which typically results in energy losses. This model also allows for local movement of energy, reducing the need for energy storage.
For utilities, the blockchain offers a reliable, low-cost way record and validate transactions across a distributed network. This would make energy production processes more efficient by serving as the backbone for utilities’ “smart grid” management systems that automatically diagnose and reconfigure any network emergencies.
The mining process is computationally and energy intensive, especially as the millions of processors worldwide need cooling, which requires more power. This mining process has the same total power generation capacity as Nigeria. Optimistically, this is also pushing some companies and individuals to mine digital currencies using renewable energy or simply in more energy-efficient ways.
There are a plethora of companies in this space including but not limited to:
- Energy Grids – Envion and Grid Singularity
- Energy Markets – Enerchain and Electron
- Renewables at-large – ClimateCoin, PowerLedger, and WePower
- Specific renewables including solar and wind – SolarCoin, SunContract, and WindCoin
- Sustainable digital currency mining – Envion, NastyMining, HydroMiner, and HARVEST
A Canadian Outlook
Canada’s abundant resources, resilient energy ecosystem, and long-standing tradition of protecting the environment makes it ripe for innovation.
As the US departs from the Paris Climate Agreement, Canada’s leadership in the Western Hemisphere is more needed. With the already existing strength of its blockchain ecosystem, there’s no better time for Canada to rise to the occasion.
One such player is Kontrol Energy Corp – a Canadian-based greentech company to recently announce their offering of distributed energy solutions with the blockchain technology in not only Toronto and Ontario as a whole but New York and California as well.
Powerful global entities have already taken notice of blockchain and all technologies within the 4th Industrial Revolution. As blockchain grows in capability, there is potential that blockchain be able to solve climate change from an alternative pathway that focuses on incentivizing good human behaviour.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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