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In his scientific exploration “Enlightenment Now”, Harvard University’s DR Steven Pinker outlines how humanity is making sensational progress, citing real data that will surprise you. The data is real, verifiable and encouraging. But one challenge is highlighted as a critical need to be addressed: Climate change.
The year is 1848, Sacramento Valley is sprinkled with white powder from the heavens in a cold January. The USA is in the midst of a tense negotiation with possessors of the land, Mexico, who days later would cede their territory to the Yanks.
The investment space has grown into an entire industry with its own verticals and niches. Venture capital has never before seen such prominence, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Five decades ago, when someone referred to “investment”, it was usually a simple trust fund with a well structured portfolio providing solid dividends. Today, the term could mean a myriad of different things.
With a population now teetering on 8 billion people, the amount of carbon dioxide we as a developed species are releasing into earth’s atmosphere is astonishing. The current data shows that humanity is emitting 99.45 million tonnes of CO2 each day, which, as anyone with any comprehension of the “greenhouse effect” would know, is a recipe for global disaster.
It’s now glaringly obvious that climate change is having a serious impact on everyday human life. We’ve recently witnessed devastating floods in Pakistan and India, and scorching drought in most of Europe. Every month seems to bring more news of severe calamity brought on by mother nature.
Clean energy is given an enormous amount of media attention these days, so much so that it’s hard to imagine that 80% of the world’s energy is still produced from the combustion of fossil fuels. And while that share is projected to drop to 56% by 2050, it’s still staggering considering we are told daily about renewable energy exploits.
It could be argued that the world has never before experienced such unified fear over the climate emergency. While the UK recently endured its highest temperatures ever recorded, Italy finds itself in the throes of one of its worst droughts in history, and across the pond the USA has placed thousands of cities and towns on heat advisory warnings. This all in conjunction with unprecedented flooding in the likes of South Africa and India, and hail and snow storms ravaging Mexico and New Zealand.
The catalog of climate catastrophes is getting longer by the day, and solutions are arguably humanity’s most prized necessities right now. While some of the planet’s largest conglomerates (long guilty of being the worst contributors) are now frantically exploring ways to reduce and even turn back their environmental impact, some experts propose that carbon credits are the easiest method to start reining in the carnage.
Carbon Credits: A Financial Product to Offset Environmental Footprints
A carbon credit is a type of asset that a person or organization can purchase to offset their carbon footprint. One carbon credit represents an emission reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). They’re most commonly used in the corporate industry, where companies purchase them to offset the negative impact they’re having on the climate via their CO2 emissions.
In addition to offsetting their own climate impact, the purchasing of carbon credits also contributes to the funding of environmental projects actively working to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This strategically innovative economic system was introduced in 1997 at the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol, and is an ingenious way to not only incentivize the reduction of carbon emissions, but also that of carbon capture technology. By creating a regulated economy whereby corporations can offset their CO2 emissions by purchasing “credits”, forward-thinking entrepreneurs and engineers are motivated to create and run efficient carbon capture technology because of the revenue it will generate.
In essence, the purchasing of a carbon credit is akin to buying a certificate that states an individual or corporation has emitted a specific amount of CO2 whilst conducting business, and have now funded a project that counters that emission with an equal or greater amount of O2, thereby offsetting their pollution. Thanks to the carbon credit system, many of the world’s largest companies are now carbon neutral, and some are even able to venture into “carbon negative” territory due to their investments into carbon capture tech. While some of the world’s more famed companies like Google and Microsoft have a lengthy history of purchasing carbon offsets, the economic mechanism has now inspired them to engineer their own carbon capture technology
Web 3.0 Driving Climate Change Through Carbon Credits
Traditionally, the Web 3.0 industry has been on the receiving end of intense backlash when it comes to climate change. This is mostly due to the amount of energy required for securing “Proof of Work” blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In recent years, however, the scrutiny has led many Bitcoiners to seek renewable energy sources and has motivated Ethereum to shift to the energy-conserving “Proof of Stake” algorithm.
But beyond the two largest blockchains in the industry, there are a considerable number of ways that Web3 tech is empowering climate action. From solar farming to carbon credit tokenization and everything in between.
Abe Cambridge, a climate scientist from the UK who recently moved to South Africa to establish a solar panel network in the country, is of the firm belief that blockchain technology is a boon for taking the carbon credit economy to the next stage of development.
“Solar panels are so effective that subsidies are not required to provide a double digit return on investment,” Cambridge said in a recent interview. “By combining the power of cryptocurrency with solar, we’re able to close the solar funding gap by connecting the world to the sun.”
Cambridge’s “Solar Exchange” aims to motivate retail investors to partner in the building of new solar plants and earn passive income on their contributions based on the amount of energy produced.
In a similar vein, EcoWatt envisions a future where carbon credits can be tokenized and traded as easily as any cross border digital asset. By taking advantage of the global, cross-border nature of cryptoassets, EcoWatt is reducing the friction of carbon credit purchases.
“The carbon credit economy is one that needs to scale, and scale fast,” tells CEO Thomas Puskas. “There has never been a more urgent time in human history than right now to move toward carbon negative industry. I believe this can only be achieved through a carefully engineered carbon credit economy.”
Puskas and his team at EcoWatt aim to be part of that engineering solution by introducing NFT technology to the carbon economy in addition to the tokenization of their generated carbon credits. The company has a portfolio of renewable energy, clean tech and reforestation projects that generate carbon credits, which are in turn tokenized using blockchain infrastructure and sold as digital assets. These assets can be purchased by corporate or retail investors alike, who can then earn utility NFTs that certify their environmental contributions over two decades.
Is The Future of Web3 Green?
While blockchain networks certainly came under fire in their formative years, their evolution has shown that they are a powerful ally in the fight against climate change. If implemented securely, using carbon neutral Proof of Stage consensus, it is highly likely that public perception about the technology will change when confronted with projects like EcoWatt, Solar Exchange, and others.
The global and instant nature of blockchain and cryptocurrencies makes them a perfect fit for both the tokenization of considerable assets like carbon credits, as well as the cross-border funding of important environmental projects.
Web3 looks to have matured, and it couldn’t have come at a more critical moment.
Turns out timing is everything.There are moments when world events combine to rescue the truth of old lines from mere cliché.
The release of the latest landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week was one of them.
If you were to distill the thousands of pages of “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Working Group III Contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report” detailing our shrinking window to avert climate catastrophe into a single line , it would simply be this:
Timing is everything.
Everything, because the report delineates with clinical precision the steps to something like a livable future and exactly how much time the world has for each . (Spoiler alert: Less than we thought.)
But everything also, because at a moment when the human tragedy in Ukraine has forced a global conversation on fossil fuels and our energy future, the report is exactly what the world needs to hear right now.
THREE YEARS TO TURN THE CORNER ON FOSSIL FUELS
The toplines of the report will not surprise anyone who’s been paying attention to the headlines on climate recently. In a nutshell, we have just three years – not decades – to reach the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions (aka “peak emissions”) planetwide before rapidly reducing fossil fuel use and reaching net-zero levels by 2050.
Three years, that is, to have any reasonable chance at holding global warming to something like 1.5 degrees Celsius, the danger line after which climate-fueled destruction threatens to go from “quite bad” to “downright Biblical” with projected human suffering growing exponentially with every fraction of a degree above 1.5.
The stakes are huge. Miss this goal and emissions keep rising, which the report estimates could lead to warming of 2.2–3.5 degrees (Celsius) by 2100.
PEAKING GLOBAL EMISSIONS: A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB
Needless to say, peaking global emissions in just three years is a tall order. One of almost Everest-like proportions.
Despite years of promises by the international community and the historic accomplishment of the Paris Agreement, the report authors underscore that global emissions continued to grow over the last decade from 2010–2019.
Perhaps most concerningly with respect to 2025, a recent study shows that the first and third-greatest polluting nations – China and India, respectively – both rosebetween from 2019–2021. China’s current Paris Agreement commitment calls for the country to peak emissions “before 2030” but doesn’t specify a year. India, meanwhile, doesn’t plan to peak emissions before 2040 at the earliest.
(To be clear, India and China are not the sole villains in the global emissions picture, as both are working to develop and pull millions out of poverty. The US and EU, for example, are in no position to throw stones.)
The result, the report notes is that: “Without a strengthening of policies beyond those that are implemented by the end of 2020, GHG emissions are projected to rise beyond 2025, leading to a median global warming of 3.2 [2.2 to 3.5] °C by 2100.”
In short, the world is not doing enough. Not nearly.
THERE IS STILL A PATH TO A BETTER FUTURE. JUST.
There is an implicit note of hope here. For all the task of reaching net zero by 2050 is a huge one, we can still do it. But it’s going to take an unprecedented effort and we’re talking about making it by the proverbial skin of our 2050 teeth.
Much of the report is given to the steps we need to take quickly to accelerate just energy transition and social transformation. Some of the key takeaways here:
- It’s going to take an all-of-society approach.
- “All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%) involve rapid and deep and in most cases immediate GHG emission reductions in all sectors.”
- It’s going to mean shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy sources on a massive scale.
- “Modelled mitigation strategies to achieve these reductions include transitioning . . . to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources.”
- Energy transition alone won’t be enough to hold warming to 1.5 degrees – we need carbon removal technology too.
- “[D]eploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual GHG emissions.”
- Acting on climate and accelerating energy transition will make life better – and be cheaper than the alternative.
- “The global economic benefit of limiting warming to 2°C is reported to exceed the cost of mitigation in most of the assessed literature.”
- Wealthy nations have to step up and support developing countries at much higher levels than are currently pledged.
- “Accelerated financial cooperation is a critical enabler of low-GHG and just transitions, and can address inequities in access to finance and the costs of, and vulnerability to, the impacts of climate change.”
- The future of billions in developing nations depends on rapid energy transition and ambitious climate action.
- “There is a strong link between sustainable development, vulnerability and climate risks. Limited economic, social and institutional resources often result in high vulnerability and low adaptive capacity, especially in developing countries.”
- Perhaps most important, many of the tools we need for rapid emissions cuts – from better use of land resources to improving demand and efficiency to effective electric vehicles – are in our hands today.
THE TIMING MATTERS
There was, of course, no way for the IPCC to know it would be releasing the report at a time when the war in Ukraine is the backdrop to almost everything. And when the world is grappling with the real and wide-ranging costs of fossil fuels like perhaps never before.
But that’s exactly what’s happened. Even before Russian tanks rolled across the border, the EU was working on a new energy strategy to wean the bloc off Russian gas within the decade and – critically – accelerate the pace of clean energy transition. As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyden told policymakers at a conference on February 19, “We are doubling down on renewables. This will increase Europe’s strategic independence.”
The war has – for Europe – added new urgency to this effort, with the EU now scrambling to cut its reliance on Russian gas by more than two-thirds this year. Meanwhile, in the US, President Biden has pointed to renewables as the path to not only providing true energy security and fighting global warming, but also protecting families from painful fuel prices.
What happens next and how quickly these statements turn into concrete policies is still an open question. Both the US and EU face real but solvable challenges to get to clean energy economies, and the Drill Baby Drill contingent in Congress is seizing every opportunity to argue for more of the same dirty energy that got us here in the first place.
With the world asking how can we keep the lights on without propping up murderous petro-state dictators and protect working families from crippling energy prices, the short-term strategy seems to be a lesser-of-two-evils approach, with Europe trying to trade Russian gas for US alternatives in a global game of energy musical chairs.
Long-term, simply trading one source of the same fossil fuels that got us here for another and expecting peace and democracy to flourish and low prices to return forever sounds a lot like the popular definition of insanity (i.e. doing the same thing twice and expecting different results). Vladimir Putin being far from the only petro-state dictator with a violent turn, and 2022 being not our first oil price spike rodeo.
Let’s be clear: this is a decision point, not just on how we heat our homes in 2022, but what the world looks like in 2052. And this is why the timing of the IPCC report matters, effectively reminding world leaders that responding to what Ukraine’s top climate scientist – and previous IPCC contributor – has called “a fossil fuel war”with more pipelines, terminals, and more is just an invitation to climate disaster: “The continued installation of unabated fossil fuel infrastructure will ‘lock-in’ GHG emissions (high confidence).”
The simple truth is that we cannot drill ourselves to safety or energy security. We cannot pretend the climate bill for doing so will not come due with devastating interest. The only path forward – for our families, our democracies, and our planet has to be to accelerate the just transition to clean energy already underway across the globe.
The stakes are clear. The steps we have to take – peak emissions by 2025 and rapidly reduce fossil fuels to reach net zero by 2050 – are too. It’s now or never. The timing of our collective response is everything.
Learn how you can make a difference on climate when it matters by becoming a Climate Reality Leader. Join us for an upcoming training in Las Vegas, Nevada from June 11–13 and get the tools, know-how, and network to lead the fight for solutions.
Be they sculptors, painters, photographers, or filmmakers, these artists are sparking important conversations about the climate crisis and inspiring action around the world. “[P]eople are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events… by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.”
The late American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein was right:
Art really does have the power to change people, and thus, our future.
That’s why today we’re heartened to see more and more artists taking on the generation-defining issue that is the climate crisis. They’re expressing what this threat means for all of us and are making the need for action emotional, urgent, and tangible.
So, here are 11 outstanding visual artists whose work is inspiring conversations and action all around the world!
Lorenzo Quinn is an Italian sculptor best known for his massive recreations of human hands. As he describes, “I wanted to sculpt what is considered the hardest and most technically challenging part of the human body…[t]he hand holds so much power – the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy.”
Lorenzo’s sculptures often grapple with environmental issues, including the climate crisis. Some of his most famous pieces on the matter include “Support” — a commentary on the threat of rising seas to the historic city of Venice — and “Give,” which asks the question “Can we save the planet… and save ourselves in the meantime?”
Guided by that theme, Sobecki often covers the effects of the climate crisis and its solutions. Whether that means sharing pictures of the global clean energy transition or documenting the devastating impacts climate change is already having on vulnerable communities around the world.
The Icelandic–Danish artist Olafur Eliasson has advocated for the environment for decades using sculptures and photography, among other mediums. In fact, in 2019, Eliasson was appointed goodwill ambassador for renewable energy and climate action by the United Nations Development Program.
One of his global warming-focused works, “The Weather Project”, can be seen below.
Speaking of “The Glacier Melt Series 1999/2019”, another climate change-focused piece, Olafur notes, “Every glacier lost reflects our inaction. Every glacier saved will be a testament to the action taken in the face of the climate emergency. One day, instead of mourning the loss of more glaciers, we must be able to celebrate their survival.”
John Akomfrah is a British artist of Ghanaian descent whose works include the themes of memory, post-colonialism, the experiences of migrants around the world, and more recently, the climate crisis.
In 2017, Akomfrah released “Purple,” a six-channel video installation that draws upon his travels in the French Polynesia to address climate change, human communities, and the wilderness. It’s been called the “most ambitious project to date” of his multi-decade career.
Daniel Beltra is a Spanish photographer whose photographs show just how drastically our planet is changing as a result of human activity.
Beltra is known for his focus on aerial photography, which “more easily allows for the juxtaposition of nature with the destruction wrought by unsustainable development.” For him, this angle helps emphasize that our planet has limits and that we are pushing past them.
One of his best-known photographs — an image of the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — can be seen below.
ANA TERESA FERNÁNDEZ
Ana Teresa Fernández is a Mexican-born, San Francisco-based sculptor and painter. Released in 2021, her “On the Horizon” exhibit stunningly demonstrates the risk rising sea levels present to her community, and of course, coastal communities all around the world.
As she describes, “We human beings who call this ocean planet home are key protagonists in the plot and pacing of this tale. Individual actions will have everything to do with how our collective story unfolds.”
ALLISON JANAE HAMILTON
Allison Janae Hamilton is a Kentucky-born, Florida-raised sculptor, photographer, and videographer. Her art draws inspiration from her roots growing up in the South and from a passion for landscapes.
As her biography describes, “she engages haunting yet epic mythologies that address the social and political concerns of today’s changing southern terrain, including land loss, environmental justice, climate change, and sustainability.”
You can see those themes captured in works like “Floridawater I” (2019).
Did you know that if plastic use were a country, it’d be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world? It’s true, and along with the inescapable problem of waste, is serious cause for concern.
That’s why we’re glad to see Alejandro Duran taking action through the Washed Up Project. This is a series of artworks made of the international trash that washes up on Mexico’s beaches.
Duran is raising awareness of the problem and hopes to help end the plastic pollution trashing the world’s land, oceans, and atmosphere.
Katherine Boland is a British-born, Australia-based artist who makes art focused on the natural world using non-traditional mediums. Among them, fire.
Katherine was inspired to make art to raise awareness about climate change after experiencing the 2019–2020 Australian bushfires firsthand. Below is a piece from “OUTPUT: ART AFTER FIRE,” an art project supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade following the fires.
JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR
Jason deCaires Taylor is a sculptor, professional underwater photographer, and as his art clearly shows, an avid environmentalist. He is best known for his many large-scale underwater sculpture exhibits.
As his bio describes, “Taylor’s pioneering public art projects are not only examples of successful marine conservation, but works of art that seek to encourage environmental awareness, instigate social change and lead us to appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty of the underwater world.”
His works are mesmerizing and moving and completely speak for themselves.
Julie Heffernan is an American painter whose art touches on subjects ranging from the environment to history and feminism, among others.
Recently, she made waves in the climate art scene with “When the Water Rises,” a series of paintings that “create alternative habitats in response to environmental disaster and planetary excess.”
Courtney Taylor, an art curator at Louisiana State University, could hardly have described the series better:
“Julie’s work addresses excess and its relationship to climate change, issues that become more relevant, more pressing, each day…[t]he beauty of her painting pulls us in to consider these fraught issues, but, in addition to considering these catastrophes and our complicity, we’re pushed to consider our response.”
JOIN THE MOVEMENT FOR SOLUTIONS
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By Diego Rojas