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

woman holding hand over crystal ball

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.

If Only We Knew What We Know About Climate Change in Oregon

puzzle pieces with 20 years of Oregon Climate Action words

When it comes to climate change, Carla Odell’s “if only we knew what we know,” is an apt metaphor, particularly given Woodrow Wilson’s point that “there is not an idea in our heads that has not been worn shiny by someone else’s brains.”

Imagine what we could accomplish on climate change in Oregon if everyone didn’t have to reinvent the same climate change wheels, or come up the same lengthy learning curves. Imagine if we could more easily progress from 101-level conversations about climate policies and climate solutions to 201 and 301-level conversations. What could we accomplish if we could overcome the unfortunate reality as summarized by Margaret Heffernan, that “in climate change, all the forces of willful ignorance come together like synchronized swimmers in a spectacular water ballet.”

Knowledge management tools and processes can go a long way toward making these aspirations a reality. These tools make it easier for individuals interested in climate change in Oregon to access the specific climate knowledge that will help them accomplish their goals — what we call their actionable climate knowledge.

The open-access Climate Web is one such knowledge management tool. The Climate Web makes it possible for anyone to explore “what we know” about hundreds of climate change topics. It allows anyone to benefit from the 20,000 hours the Climatographers have spent exploring, curating, and linking together the climate change ideas “worn shiny by someone else’s brains.”

But simply making so much relevant information available does not necessarily solve the problems users face in making the best use of that information. That is why we’ve created an “Oregon and Climate Change Knowledgebase.” This Knowledgebase goes a step further, using a Q&A format to help users quickly zero in on the information they’re most interested in. The Knowledgebase is limited to Oregon-specific materials, so it doesn’t include the enormous resources available elsewhere in the Climate Web covering topics relevant to Oregon such as carbon pricing, carbon offsets, and climate change forecasts. It does, however, organize Oregon-specific thinking about those topics. Moreover, if you don’t see work that you know about, we can easily add it.

The Oregon and Climate Change Knowledgebase is described in more detail here, or you can jump directly to where you can sign up for a detailed video demonstration of the Knowledgebase. As you’ll learn in the video demonstration, we’ve created three ways you can access the Knowledgebase:

  • Online
  • Through a read-only downloadable version of the Knowledgebase
  • Through a fully customizable version of the Knowledgebase

Each of these options gives users speedier access and more control over the Knowledgebase. The last option gives users full flexibility in adapting the Knowledgebase to their own purposes. All three options allow users to take advantage of the hundreds of hours of work that have gone into building the Knowledgebase.

Are Blockchain and Bitcoin Relevant to Climate Change?

block chain and cryptocurrencies and climate change
If you’re interested in climate change you’ve probably seen references to how blockchain and cryptocurrencies (like bitcoin) will help solve climate change.  We’ve recently comprehensively incorporated this topic into the Climate Web. A good starting point is the Blockchain Index Entry into the Climate Web, and yesterday I used the Climate Web to deliver an invited webinar entitled “Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, and Climate Change.”
The webinar was recorded and I wanted to bring it to your attention. If, like me, you’ve been wondering about all of this blockchain and cryptocurrency “stuff” and how is it relevant to climate change, I suspect you’d find the one-hour webinar a good way to get your head around the many questions.
You can watch the webinar replay here. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have follow-up ideas or questions!

The Water Will Come: Tackling Willful Blindness on Climate Change

cover of Goodell book and blog title is there willful blindness on sea level rise

Jeff Goodell’s book, The Water Will Come, was recently released as another addition to the sea level rise bookshelf. But the question the book really raises is one of willful blindness and whether we can overcome that willful blindness on sea level rise in particular, and on climate change in general.

In this post, I’ll begin to tackle those questions. If you wish, the Climate Web can help you further explore willful blindness and how to overcome it.

The Water Will Come is certainly not the first popular telling of the story of sea level rise. There are dozens of technical and fictional books about sea level rise, and literally hundreds of reports. But more than many others, this book documents the problem of sea level rise willful blindness.

Willful blindness is a great metaphor for climate change, and Margaret Heffernan’s 2011 book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, provides a sobering look at challenges in dealing with difficult problems — most of which are easier to deal with than climate change. It is an eye-opening read. With specific respect to climate change Heffernan notes:

“in failing to confront the greatest challenge of our age, climate change, all the forces of willful ignorance come together like synchronized swimmers in a spectacular water ballet.”

You can explore the key messages of Heffernan’s book in the Climate Web, as well as access the larger literature on the barriers to rational decision-making. We’ve got popular books on climate change as well as books that are not directly related to climate change but which can help you understand the challenges posed by a wicked problem like climate change.

Goodell’s book, The Water Will Come, covers a number of topics:

  • How high could water rise?
  • Who is at risk?
  • Does anyone “own” the risk?
  • Is coastal fortification the answer?
  • What about climate gentrification?
  • Why are we so willfully blind?
  • Is geoengineering an answer?

You can investigate any of these topics in depth, too, in the Climate Web.

A key topic in The Water Will Come is, of course, how far and how fast will that water come. How accurately can we answer those questions? One of the reasons willful blindness is so pervasive is that the answer is “not very accurately.” Rather, we face considerable uncertainty in answering these two questions.

We know how much the seas will rise if all the ice on Earth melts — about 250 feet. But we also know that would take a long time to happen even with global warming. It’s when we start asking about how much SLR will happen by 2050, or by 2100, that uncertainty rears its head. All we can do is talk about the probability of certain levels of SLR by a certain date.

chart sea level rise total ice melt

But even that is challenging. Can we even be confident in the probability of something happening that humans have never seen happen before? This is a big question. As geologist Richard Alley notes in The Water Will Come:

“We just don’t know what the upper boundary is for how fast this can happen. We are dealing with an event that no human has ever witnessed before. We have no analogue for this.”

Scientists have been reluctant to assign probabilities to sea level rise given that there’s so much we don’t know about what exactly is happening to the ice in Greenland and Antarctica. In 2017, NOAA came out with its first sea level rise probability estimate (the report is in the Climate Web, of course!).

NOAA chart of potential sea level rise

You can see that even though the media is full of reports about more than 6 feet of sea level rise by 2100, the NOAA report does not predict a six foot increase as a likely outcome.

But does the fact that NOAA suggests there is less than a 1% chance of 6 feet of sea level rise make that outcome less worthy of our attention? It’s all a matter of how we perceive risk. A less than 1% chance of 6 feet of sea level rise may seem like a small number. But think about air travel. Would you get on a plane if you thought there was a 1% chance of a crash? A 0.1% chance? A .01% chance? Think about it — even a 0.01% chance of a crash would mean 3 plane crashes in the US every day, so the risk is actually far lower. But when it comes to big risks, small numbers matter. And in that context 1% is anything but a small number.

A big problem here is that we’re just not very good at interpreting probabilities. It’s one reason we’re susceptible to willful blindness on the potential crisis of sea level rise. Is that changing? See this text from John Englander’s 2012 book, High Tide on Main Street:

“Currently there is still no sign that anyone in Florida is discounting the price of coastal real estate based on the slowly growing awareness that the shoreline will move significantly inland. At least for now, coastal property values continue to move with the larger real estate market.”

Five years and tons of scientific work later, has the situation changed at all? Goodell suggests that today there may be less “simple ignorance” about the risks of sea level rise, but it seems that willful blindness is taking up the slack. Goodell reports on his conversations with real estate professionals, including one exchange in which a major developer notes that “We don’t think about it on a daily basis,” and (even more disturbing):

“I believe that in twenty or thirty years, someone is  …. By that time, I’ll be dead, so what does it matter?”

This is, perhaps, the starkest example of willful blindness in the book, but certainly not the only one.

That said, it will get harder and harder to plead simple ignorance or willful blindness as time goes on. For $149, for example, the organization Coastal Risk Consulting will provide you with a report that details the frequency with which your house is likely to flood during the 30-year life of a mortgage, based on advanced sea level rise estimates in combination with the estimated likelihood of storms and storm surges.

Willful blindness to the crisis isn’t our only challenge. Another is the ability of key players to pass the risk to someone else — often homeowners. A real estate developer building a house in a vulnerable area faces little risk; the risk will be borne by whoever buys the house. But aren’t homeowners the least prepared to internalize and manage such risks? That’s why things like zoning and risk disclosure mandates are important to breaking through the willful blindness of sea level rise. Goodell argues that while everyone is beginning to recognize they are betting on what happens to property values as a result of sea level rise, people assume that they can win the bet by anticipating how others will bet, and beating them to the punch. That’s a risky strategy, since there’s no way everyone will beat everyone else to the punch.

What might trigger a sudden change in flood-prone property values? What if Hurricane Irma had slammed into Miami, as originally forecast, just a month before Goodell’s book came out? Would that have been a trigger for widespread property devaluation? One symptom of willful blindness is that when “it” happens, everyone will act shocked and surprised! Everyone will say they couldn’t have known — but they already do!

An interesting factoid:The Water Will Come describes how many people plan to use seawalls as a defense against rising seas. Is that itself a willful blindness of its own? Take a look at this interesting chart estimating how much cement and sand it would take simply to protect the world’s ports from foecasted sea level rise.  It’s the equivalent of 60-300 years of current production for those commodities. Where will the cement and sand come from to allow millions of homeowners to fortify their houses against sea level rise? Chances are, it won’t.

chart showing cement sand and gravel availability

Willful blindness is clearly a huge issue when it comes to sea level rise and the reaction of individuals, companies, and policymakers. Goodell’s objective is to overcome that blindness. Unfortunately, overcoming willful blindness is a huge psychological and communications challenge, whether for sea level rise or for climate change generally.  Can we actually help people facing the risks of sea level rise to get past their willful blindness?

It should be possible. But it’s not just a matter of presenting them with the facts about the likelihood of sea level rise or the potential impacts, no matter how alarming. It’s also a matter of helping people see the topic through their own “lenses.” For some, for example, fiction can help. One example we recommend is James Powell’s 2084: An Oral History of the Great Warming (99 cents on Amazon for the Kindle book!). Spoiler alert: you’ll find out the exact year that Rotterdam dies, and when New York City and Florida have to be abandoned! Another good example is Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl, which is a superb fictional account of a post-sea level rise world that can really get you thinking.

You can explore all of this in more depth (no pun intended) in the Climate Web. The Climate Web’s Sea Level Rise Deep Dive encompasses thousands of news reports, books, websites, videos, and more — almost anything you might want to find. But the Climate Web goes further, including the broader question of how to communicate climate change, how to communicate uncertainty generally, and how to communicate about climate change with specific audiences. There is a lot of excellent work going on in each of these areas, which needs to be better internalized into climate change conversations. It’s key to attacking the problem of willful blindness.

Watch our video of this blog post. If you are further interested in these issues, consider taking our course, Sea Level Rise and Real Estate: How Big a Risk?

 

Find Climate Web Founder, Dr. Mark Trexler, on The Costa Report

Listen to Rebecca Costa’s interview with The Climate Web’s director and founder, Dr. Mark C. Trexler, on her nationally syndicated radio show, The Costa Report. Costa is the author of the new On the Verge, an exploration of futures, foresight, and predictions, and the 2010 The Watchman’s  Rattle, a book that explores the difficulties in solving complex problems. In the radio interview, Dr. Trexler talks with Rebecca about the wicked problem of climate change, what’s stopping us from addressing it effectively, and how the Climate Web can help us make progress.

 

 

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A Climate Change Circular Firing Squad

climate web background what's your climate story words

There’s a lot that’s new with the Climate Web!

First, please visit and subscribe to our brand new Climate Web YouTube Channel. It’s already a great resource for getting introduced to the Climate Web and for exploring it in depth — and it will get much better. Since the Climate Web points you to more than 100 climate-relevant YouTube channels, and more than 1,500 YouTube videos, it may help serve as a climate gateway into YouTube.

If you’ve followed my work over the years on topics like Climate Chess and the 1,000,000 piece Climate Change Jigsaw puzzle, you’ll know I’m not overwhelmed by the way in which climate advocates organize and coordinate their efforts in order to tackle climate change. But we rarely see the kind of circular firing squad that Chris Mooney reported on this week in the Washington Post. Stanford’s Mark Jacobson has actually filed a libel suit against the authors of a peer-reviewed article that challenges some of the assumptions in Jacobson’s work in which he suggests that we can “immediately” transition to a 100% renewable energy mix. There’s plenty of room for technical debate on this topic; in fact, you can dig deep into all of the associated issues through the I:100%RenewablesCase Index Entry in the Climate Web. But for one climate advocate to sue other climate advocates over disagreements regarding modeling assumptions? Really?

One of the things we obviously need more of when it comes to tackling climate change is dialogue of all kinds. And there is an I:ClimateDialogues Index Entry in the Climate Web. But we recently came across some great work in this area by Kimberly Nicholas of the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies. Check out her “We Can Fix It World Café” page.

Last item for today — I’ve always been intrigued by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock. We’ve just added this Doomsday Clock Animation video to the Climate Web. Check it out — it’s worth the two-minute view!

I hope you find this week’s additions to the Climate Web as interesting (and frustrating) as I do. Again, please visit the Climate Web’s new YouTube channel! Suggestions welcome!

Climate Fiction Daily Doorway

TheBrain software - Climate Web

I mentioned in our last What’s New earlier this week that we’ve started building Doorways into the Climate Web to facilitate access to topics of cross-cutting interest. We just published today’s Climate Web Doorway focused on Climate Fiction. I’ve always been a Sci-Fi buff and so Cli-Fi was a natural extension of my interest. It so happens that the first Cli-Fi book I read, James Powell’s 2084: An Oral History of the Great Warming (2011) remains one of my favorites. But Cli-Fi is a fascinating topic overall. Is it primarily a catharsis for writers? Is it intended to influence public opinion and climate change outcomes?  Is every book describing the weather now going to be considered CliFi (Godzilla was called a CliFi movie for reasons I’ve never figured out).

Let’s say you’re a climate change advocate interested in the topic. Or a journalist discovering Cli-Fi as a genre. Or a writer concerned about climate change. Or a Sci-Fi buff trying to figure out what this new genre is about. Or a teacher wanting to integrate Cli-Fi into your writing course. Where do you go? Sure, you can read one of the dozens of newspaper stories about Cli-Fi, and start digging from there. But we’ve been collecting Cli-Fi relevant material for years, and it’s all in the Climate Web. Today’s Climate Web Doorway simply surveys that information, and I think it points out what our new Doorways can help accomplish. Spend a few minutes at the Doorway (watch the Doorway Help Video if you haven’t before), and you’ll come away with an understanding of Cli-Fi and the conversations around Cli-Fi that otherwise would have taken you hours (and let’s be frank, you probably never would have spent the time).

But since we’ve pulled it all together, why not spend a few minutes perusing today’s Climate Web Doorway of the Day – Climate Fiction. If you’re REALLY not interested in Cli-Fi, remember that we have several other Doorways of the Day open right now, covering Electric Vehicles, Great Non-Climate Books Important to Understanding Climate Change, and Oregon and Climate Change. You can get permanent access to any of these topical Doorways, 100 other Doorways, or your own Personal Doorway, through our Patreon Project.

What’s New in the Climate Web: Climate Doorways

Lots of new additions to the Climate Web recently!

We’ve added Climate Liability News to the 100 or so websites in the Climate Web focused on climate change. The idea of assessing liability for GHG emissions is VERY challenging, but now there’s a site tracking the idea day to day.

The Climate Web has been comprehensively tracking the topic of hurricanes and climate change as Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. You can find that coverage at the index entry I:HurricaneHarvey, and we recommend you watch our video trying to make sense of the conversation.

Check out this fun Climate Change Coloring Book project.

Take a look at this innovative 97 Hours of Consensus graphic at Skeptical Science. Can you find the 3 outliers? I found 2, and I’m pretty sure I know who the 3rd is likely to be, but couldn’t find her!

It’s still a work in progress, and early stage at that (in terms of the detail in the Climate Web), but if you want to see the 190 arguments that climate doubters tend to bring up (based on Skeptical Science), here’s the list of arguments in the Climate Web. It’s an interesting list, and we’ll be grouping the arguments in the Index, and then linking information to them so you can quickly survey the best available information from multiple sources.

Last but not least, and reflecting a huge amount of work in recent weeks, take a look at our new Doorways into the Climate Web. The idea is to point users to basic collections of relevant information they can use to understand a topic, without having to tackle the massive amount of related information in the Climate Web (unless one wants to, of course!). Here’s a short video introducing the idea and goal of Climate Web Doorways.  We’ll be issuing “Climate Web Doorways of the Day” on all kinds of topics. Our first Doorway of the Day dealt with electric vehicles, while today’s provides a snapshot of Oregon and Climate Change. Individual Doorways of the Day will be up for about 3 days and then cycle to another topic, but as explained here it’s easy to get permanent access to more than 100 standardized Doorways into the Climate Web, not to mention your own personal doorway. Check them out!

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I hope you’ve seen something interesting to you, and that you’ll check it out in the Climate Web! Please consider supporting our Climate Web Patreon Project, and thanks to our existing supporters!

 

 

Creating Climate Knowledge for You on Patreon

I have been working on responses to climate change and climate change decision-making for almost 30 years. I’ve served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but most of my career has been spent working with organizations around the world on everything to do with climate change.

Whether calling it climate change or global warming, almost all climate scientists characterize as dangerous our departure from the “climatic normal” human societies have evolved within over the last 10,000 years. But if it’s that dangerous, why haven’t we done more to prevent it?

One reason is the enormous gap between our collective knowledge about climate change and individual decision-making when it comes to climate change, as reflected in Carla O’Dell’s “[I]f only we knew what we know” quote. Notwithstanding and to some extent because of virtually unlimited collective knowledge regarding the science, risks, and solutions to climate change, individuals rarely spot the “actionable knowledge” that would significantly influence their decisions as concerned citizens, business executives, or policy makers.

Inadequate access to actionable climate knowledge is the biggest barrier we face in tackling climate change, and it is only getting harder every year. Your social media streams do little but confirm your current views. Google almost any climate-relevant search term or question and you’ll get millions of hits. How many do you look at? How much of the information do you remember a month later?

Based on our 20+ years working on climate change, and a longstanding interest in knowledge management, about six years ago my environmental lawyer wife and I started building an “actionable knowledge” solution for climate change. We call it the Climate Web. It uses TheBrain® software to organize information in ways that make it accessible to anyone interested in climate change, from concerned citizens and philanthropists to business executives and policy makers. It starts by linking more than 40,000 books, reports, journal articles, news stories, videos, and websites, with new materials added almost daily. But the Climate Web also does much more, extracting and linking together thousands of individual ideas and powerful graphics that can help deliver knowledge that can influence perceptions and decisions.

 

In the process of building the Climate Web I suspect we’ve read more climate-related literature, visited more climate-related websites, and watched more climate-related videos than any other two people on the planet. The Climate Web has turned into a massive resource that we’re confident can help make a difference on climate change.

We have gone to great lengths to make the Climate Web an open-access resource that anyone can use. Want to learn about climate science, how to communicate climate change, or what experts are forecasting when it comes to a low-carbon transition? It’s in the Climate Web. Want to find out what experts are saying about carbon pricing and cap-and-trade policy? It’s in the Climate Web. In fact, if there is an answer to climate change it’s probably in the Climate Web! The Climate Web can save you hours, days, or even more of your time. It can point you to great resources you would never otherwise see. It can help you think about climate change or climate change solutions in a completely new way. It can provide you with all kinds of new resources for communicating with or teaching others about climate change.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what you can find in the Climate Web. Its sheer size is the biggest challenge users face in using the Climate Web. After investing 16,000 hours in building the Climate Web, this Patreon project has two goals: 1) to help us keep the Climate Web open access; and 2) to help users more easily access their specific actionable knowledge in the Climate Web.

The solution is Climate Web Doorways:

  • Audience Doorways lead to curated collections aimed at the needs of particular user audiences, from “Concerned Individuals” to “Corporate Risk Managers” and “K-12 Teachers.”
  • Topic Doorways lead to curated collections that help you understand and track important climate topics, from a “2oC Climate Target” to the “Water-Food-Energy Nexus” and “Extreme Events.”
  • Personal Doorways lead to curated collections customized for individual users, and can include an eclectic collection of nodes from all over the Climate Web.

Doorways mean you don’t have to try and keep track of where you saw great resources in the Climate Web, and retrace your steps every time you go in. You can jump there instantly through your URL-based personal doorway!

Watch a video that helps you select the Doorway(s) of most value to you:

All supporters of our Patreon project will receive customized access to Climate Web information. Take a look at the different levels of support, and pick the one that best suits your interests. Choose your preferred Audience, Topic, or Dashboard Doorways, or contents for your Personal Doorway, from this list (which replicates what you just saw on the video)!

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We believe that the Climate Web can help thousands of individuals and organizations be more effective in advancing their climate change goals, and advance our collective goal of slowing climate change and accelerating a low-carbon transition. Will you help us continue to use our time and expertise to build and expand the Climate Web as an open access resource, and give anyone who’s interested a 16,000 hour head start on their goals? Thank you!

Climate Change and Hurricanes?

Watch our new video! In this video, we explore media coverage of the links between climate change and Hurricane Harvey, and evaluate the common assertion that we can now finally stop debating whether such links exist (an assertion we heard after Hurricane Katrina by the way). The video doesn’t advocate for or against climate science, it simply asks whether the scientific messaging is consistent and effective. The results aren’t that encouraging, and we should be doing better.

And by the way, the Climate Web can help!