If Blockchain and Bitcoin are the Solution, What Was the Problem?

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June 4, 2018

woman looking into crystal ball - blockchain and climate change

If you’re interested in climate change, you’ve probably seen a lot of discussion not only about how blockchain and cryptocurrencies (like bitcoin) will change the world, but how they’ll help solve climate change.

There is no question that these new digital technologies will change the world. They already are. How much of an impact they’ll have on climate change, however, is a very different question. The conversation is hard to get your head around for two reasons:

  • Lots of people are saying different things about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and climate change, so it’s hard to keep track of the conversation.
  • Most of the people talking about this are from the digital technology community and don’t necessarily understand some of the nuances of the climate change issue.

It is common to see arguments that blockchain technology will help save carbon markets because it will end double-counting of offsets and transactional fraud. That’s great, but that’s by no means the primary challenge carbon offsets have faced. That challenge is “additionality,” and there is no way for blockchains to address offset additionality. Some blockchain enthusiasts have argued that blockchains and digital currencies make the additionality conversation obsolete. I would argue that this just illustrates a disconnect with their understanding of climate change and climate change mitigation.

The conversation about climate change and digital currencies is constantly changing as the technologies and markets evolve. To help you track that conversation, the Climatographers have pulled together a series of explanatory videos into a 60-minute Climate Web Enabled Course entitled Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, and Climate Change. The course draws from the work of numerous experts and materials organized in the Climate Web, but eliminates the need for you to explore those materials yourself (although you have that option in the Hands-On version of the course). You can find out more about the course and its contents here on the Climate Web website.

If you find my comments above about carbon offset additionality provocative or thought-provoking, you can find out more about the importance of additionality in our in-depth course on this issue, Understanding the Controversies Surrounding Carbon Offsets and How to Overcome Them: The Additionality Dilemma. Totaling some 2 hours of video content, it is probably the most in-depth look at the topic you’ll find.

About the author 

Mark Trexler

Mark has more than 30 years of regulatory and energy policy experience. He has advised clients around the world on climate change risk and risk management. He is widely published on business risk management topics surrounding climate change, including in the design and deployment of carbon markets. Mark has served as a lead author for the IPCC and holds advanced degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.

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