Blockchain and Climate Crisis

by Deirdre Kelly

photography by Chris Robinson

Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, is now being used by researchers at York University to facilitate climate action and emissions reduction around the world.

Essentially a shared database managed by a global network of computers, blockchain centralizes information, allowing for easy access and distribution of knowledge without the need for an intermediary.

When applied to the study of climate change, blockchain provides a transparent, public and universal ledger that can serve as a medium of exchange for emissions-reduction outcomes.

“It’s a game changer,” says Kam Phung, a PhD candidate in organization studies at the Schulich School of Business and a member of Blockchain for Climate Foundation, an initiative based in part at York University, with co-ordinated activities in such cities as Vancouver, Copenhagen, Berlin and San Francisco.

“It makes previously covert data and actions overt, allowing for better decision-making about environmental sustainability – a big step in the right direction.”

Blockchain for Climate Foundation uses new developments in the Ethereum blockchain to help international actors “put the Paris Agreement on the blockchain” by using the system to co-ordinate their carbon mitigation processes.

Previously, strategies like the transfer of carbon credits have been hampered by cumbersome architectural features and overreliance on a central authority, Phung says.

“Climate change is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our time, but the task at hand isn’t only about finding solutions. It’s also about mobilizing people, organizations and governments to take specific actions around identified solutions.”    

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