Looking at the concerns over the energy cost of Bitcoin mining... rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ - why not do as Kim Stanley Robinson suggests in The Ministry for the Future and create a new crypto currency where a full coin is awarded for proven sequestration of each ton of carbon (or prorated values) instead. That'd reward, for example, oil producing countries and petro-chem corps for keeping their carbon in the ground.


Adjudication of claims of carbon sequestration would be performed by UN coordinated teams of client scientists.


This kind of setup would make me extremely nervous. I feel like there are probably a huge number of ways to sequester carbon that wouldn't do anything to actually make life better, and locking it to something abstract like currency, rather than something explicitly democratic such as government process, just sounds like something that would invite abuse.

Carbon-specific policy is already problematic: are credits awarded based on models (which are continually being revised in ways that can change the answer) or based on empirical observation? If based on empirical observation, does the carbon in asphalt get treated in the same way as carbon naturally sequestered in the soil? How do you ensure accountability for off-site carbon costs (can you burn lots of fossil fuels to import biochar from somewhere else and still get credit for the "sequestration" of biochar carbon in your soil)?


The ambiguity of the term "carbon sequestration" might also be a problem in itself. In framing the idea of a carbon-based currency, you refer to carbon sequestration, but then suggest that this would create an incentive for oil-rich countries to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

In most uses that I've seen, carbon sequestration refers specifically to dynamic processes that move carbon out of the atmosphere and into a pool that would presumably be less harmful. That would include promotion of forest growth (locking carbon into biomass through natural processes) and industrial carbon capture (scrubbing CO2 from smokestacks and either locking it up chemically or pumping it into underground chambers), but would not include leaving fossil fuels where they are.

@dynamic Fair comments - these issues are discussed and, I think, plausibly explained in the book which, thankfully, has more than 500 characters (and a very clever, thoughtful author) to explain it.


Incidentally, I have profoundly mixed feelings about efforts to incentivize stewardship.

Payment for ecosystem services is often framed as a "market solution" to various forms of environmental degradation. The theory is that, for example, it makes sense for people at the bottom of a watershed to pay landowners at the top of the watershed to manage their land in ways that will be good for water quality. That way a rural land-owner can get revenue for leaving a water-cleaning forest in place, so that they won't feel the need for intensive logging or development. But in most cases the forest was there before the landowner had anything to do with that land, so in this kind of situation payment for ecosystem services is paying someone not to take a harmful action.


We don't talk about paying people not to directly put poison into each other's food (even if it would be personally profitable for them to do so). Why should we pay people not to take actions that would contaminate public water? And that's not even touching the question of how this person came to own the land in the first place. If you go far enough back, a lot of (if not most) land was stolen from one indigenous group or another. Does it really make sense to reward the beneficiaries of those legacies of violence?

@dynamic yes, agreed (as a FOSS developer, for example, I have misgivings about introducing payment into self-organised communities - there are other ways to be sustainable without compromising ideals). I'm intrigued and keen to hear more of your thoughts.


Thanks. That's all I have for now, although I'd likely come up with more if prompted with specific questions or alternative ways of looking at the problem ; )

The book sounds interesting, although I'm not sure when I would get a chance to read it...

@dynamic I'd like to have lots of folks read it as I think it opens up some plausible possibilities in what's otherwise a pretty dire, grim likely future.

@dynamic I agree it's a fraught proposition... it's fleshed out in quite a bit more detail in the book I cited (The Ministry for the Future)... I encourage everyone to read it ... There's already quite a bit of discussion of it going on online... e.g. bryanalexander.org/book-club/o

@lightweight The interesting thing about proof of work schemes isn't the "work", it's the "proof". The value in Bitcoin, to the extent that there's value, is that you *don't* need to adjudicate anything—it's all automatically provable. And that restricts the work to silly things like partial hash reversing.

If you have adjudication, this just sounds like carbon credits but with more steps.

@varx yes - the adjudication is a tricky proposition, but no trickier than many other valuation processes - if it's done by a disinterested party at a global level, I think it could work. And the idea is to provide a serious incentive to avoid introducing new carbon into the atmosphere. And yes, any sequestration has to be for a well defined timeframe (taken into account by the adjudicators).

@lightweight I don't think this helps, though. Maybe there's a terminology problem? "Sequestration" is taking the carbon in the air and capturing and locking it up somewhere. It doesn't address *production* of CO2 at all.

@varx @lightweight

I'm interested in varx's point that it isn't clear what a hypothetical carbon-backed currency would do that carbon credits don't do.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon - NZOSS

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!