UN Embraces Bitcoin Technology For Climate Data Integrity

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The UN wants to embrace Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, to improve the integrity of climate data such as carbon credit transactions.

UN Supports Blockchain Technology for Climate Action

New Climate Chain Coalition Launched, Seeking Members

UN Climate Change News, 22 January 2018 – Suppose information important to tackling climate change – such as an industry sector’s greenhouse emissions – were continually updated from a multitude of sources and shared in an open and transparent way. Crucial information would be readily available, up-to-date, transparently displayed and reviewed for accuracy.

This is the promise of so-called distributed ledger technology (DLT), the benefits of which seem limited only by the imagination of people familiar with the technology. The most well-known application of DTL and blockchain technology has been for creation of e-currencies, such as Bitcoin.

To encourage exploration and eventual use of this technology in support of climate action, the UN Climate Change secretariat initiated and facilitated the creation of the Climate Chain Coalition and contributed to the writing of its charter of principles and values (below).

“The UN Climate Change secretariat recognizes the potential of blockchain technology to contribute to enhanced climate action and sustainability,” said Massamba Thioye, who is leading UN Climate Change’s work exploring DTL and blockchain.

DTL and blockchain could:

  • strengthen monitoring, reporting and verification of the impacts of climate action
  • improve transparency, traceability and cost-effectiveness of climate action
  • build trust among climate actors
  • make incentive mechanisms for climate action accessible to the poorest
  • support mobilization of green finance.

“To fully and promptly mobilize this potential, broad collaboration among stakeholders is needed to direct resources to priority areas, avoid duplication of effort, and help avoid the pitfalls of working on a new technology with countless unknowns,” said Mr. Thioye.

There are currently about 32 members signed up to the coalition, and membership is open. (See below.) For more information on DTL and blockchain, see How Blockchain Technology Could Boost Climate Action.

Read more: https://cop23.unfccc.int/news/un-supports-blockchain-technology-for-climate-action

How does the UN intend to actually use Blockchain technology?

… A Blockchain is a distributed database that is continuously updated and verified by its users. Each added block of data is “chained” and becomes part of a growing list of records, under the surveillance of network members. This technology enables the transfer of assets and the recording of transactions through a secure database.

“As countries, regions, cities and businesses work to rapidly implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement, they need to make use of all innovative and cutting-edge technologies available. Blockchain could contribute to greater stakeholder involvement, transparency and engagement and help bring trust and further innovative solutions in the fight against climate change, leading to enhanced climate actions,” said Alexandre Gellert Paris, Associate Programme Officer at the UNFCCC.

Blockchain technology can be used to develop peer-to-peer trade of clean energy, for certified and facilitated transactions among consumers.

For climate action, Blockchain technology could be used in the following specific ways:

Improved carbon emission trading:

Blockchain could be used to improve the system of carbon asset transactions. For example, IBM and Energy Blockchain Lab are currently working together to develop a Blockchain platform for trading carbon assets in China. Recording carbon assets on a public Blockchain would also guarantee transparency and ensure that transactions are valid and settled automatically.

Facilitated clean energy trading:

The technology could also allow for the development of platforms for peer-to-peer renewable energy trade. Consumers would be able to buy, sell or exchange renewable energy with each other, using tokens or tradable digital assets representing a certain quantity of energy production.

Enhanced climate finance flows:

Blockchain technology could help develop crowdfunding and peer-to-peer financial transactions in support of climate action, while ensuring that financing is allocated to projects in a transparent way.

Better tracking and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction and avoidance of double counting:

The technology could provide more transparency regarding GHG emissions and make it easier to track and report emission reductions, thereby addressing possible double counting issues. It could serve as a tool to monitor the progress made in implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions, or “NDCs” under the Paris Agreement, as well as in company targets. …

Read more: https://cop23.unfccc.int/news/how-blockchain-technology-could-boost-climate-action

My question, what motivates expensive peer verification of a green blockchains?

Bitcoin peer verification of transactions is expensive. Verification is a competition between peers to be the first to generate an electronic signature with the right characteristics. Typically with Bitcoin you have to burn thousands of dollars worth of electricity cranking specialised computer equipment to win the race once. The payoff for all this effort when you finally win is that you receive some bitcoins.

Would verifiers of carbon credit blockchains receive newly minted carbon credits? Or carbon credit transaction fees? What would people who verify climate data blockchains receive?

The difficulty of this process verification is the keystone of Bitcoin’s security – it maintains the electronic integrity of Bitcoin’s distributed ledger.

Imagine bitcoins were carbon credits. According to Morgan Stanley, in 2018 Bitcoin verification will burn 0.6% of the global electricity supply.

Using green energy on a similar scale, to verify the transactional integrity of green blockchains, would essentially burn all the green energy used to produce those carbon credits and more just on the carbon credit transaction verification processes.

There is a solution. Cheap coal power stations could be used to supply electricity to people who want to verify carbon credit transactions. That way dirty coal power would be used for an environmentally acceptable purpose, cheap power would keep the costs down, and the clean energy would be available for end users rather than frittering it all away verifying carbon credit and green energy transactions.

If you think this idea is too ridiculous to be taken seriously, I’ve just got one word to say to you. Biofuel.

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January 24, 2018 5:27 am

I have always supported an open-source climate data and climate model. Sunlight is the best disinfectant for this nonsense. “Adjustments” should be made in public with sound reasoning and public comment and input. There is no way this kind of data, with its enormous impact on public spending, should be entrusted to just a few organizations and few people. It is a recipe for corruption and abuse. A global climate model should also be treated in an open source manner, with accuracy of output being the main focus, not the choice of inputs ie CO2. In my opinion, no open source group would approve the nonsense that exists today.

Reply to  co2islife
January 24, 2018 6:54 am

“nonsense. “Adjustments” should be made in public with sound reasoning and public comment…”
That was my knee-jerk reaction to the headline, but look at their planned uses, again. There is nothing there about securing and spreading availability of the un-processed, un-adjusted, un-tweaked, un-fudged temperature data readings.

Reply to  co2islife
January 24, 2018 7:35 am

““Adjustments” should be made in public with sound reasoning and public comment and input. There is no way this kind of data, with its enormous impact on public spending, should be entrusted to just a few organizations and few people. It is a recipe for corruption and abuse.”
You mean you don’t trust “The UN Climate Change secretariat” to handle all this by itself?

Reply to  co2islife
January 24, 2018 9:09 am

I don’t see “climate data ” in their list. It is for bean counters only. Why would they want to waste a lot of electricity on this nonsense is beyond me. But then I don’t get paid by the UN, I only contribute involuntarily.

January 24, 2018 5:32 am

Sounds like software lobbyist met some UN guy and convinced them to buy a pup: “I promise this will do everything you ever wanted it to do and everyone will love you for buying our software”. The sales line of every cheap consultant pushing the client to buy software that the client hasn’t a clue about and the sales guy knows will never work.

January 24, 2018 5:36 am

* strengthen monitoring, reporting and verification of the impacts of climate action
* improve transparency, traceability and cost-effectiveness of climate action
->more control
* build trust among climate actors
->trust? Orwellian newspeak.
* make incentive mechanisms for climate action accessible to the poorest
* support mobilization of green finance.
->more money
What’s not to love ?

John Bell
Reply to  paqyfelyc
January 24, 2018 6:54 am

EXACTLY! they love euphemisms

Reply to  paqyfelyc
January 24, 2018 9:51 am

You have to admire the Left for their adoption of 1984-style newspeak:
– Climate justice
– Climate action
– Climate aid
Even websites!
At least AW resisted with his unique website name.
Mehtod: Simply put the word “Climate” in front of all your verbs and nouns to achieve instant Virtue.
Heck, call it: – Climate Virtue!
I should change my name to “Climate Joel” Instant virtue 🙂
The insanity of the Left really does know NO limits.

Solomon Green
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
January 24, 2018 10:42 am

Twenty five years ago a scientist at UCLA told my wife “all you have to do is to add the word “Climate” to your grant application and you will stand a better chance of funding. Add the word “Climate” to your paper and you will be guaranteed publication.”

Andy Pattullo
Reply to  paqyfelyc
January 24, 2018 12:31 pm

And of course the depressingly variable and often collapsing value of carbon credits will be replaced by the rock solid dependability that we already have come to know and love with Bitcoin.

Leo Smith
January 24, 2018 5:49 am

How much electricity does a bitcoin burn to generate?

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2018 9:50 am

Anywhere between 50% and 100% of the monetary value of the bitcoin. It’s not a good way to make money.
Just about the only cost-effective way is in a cold climate where you use the by-product heat to warm a living space. Sad, but true.

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 24, 2018 9:52 am

We’ve had this discussion thread recently here at WUWT.

kokoda - AZEK (Deck Boards) doesn't stand behind its product
January 24, 2018 5:54 am

Integrity and IPCC are like water and oil.
The Alarmist predictions are basically lies (purposeful deceit = lie).
Just one example (of a thousand):
The 2005 UNEP predictions claimed that, by 2010, some 50 million “climate refugees” would be frantically fleeing from those regions of the globe. However, not only did the areas in question fail to produce a single “climate refugee,” by 2010, population levels for those regions were actually still soaring. In many cases, the areas that were supposed to be producing waves of “climate refugees” and becoming uninhabitable turned out to be some of the fastest-growing places on Earth.

Randy in Ridgecrest
January 24, 2018 6:19 am

This reminds me of a solar generation plot the navy put in at Lauritsen Lab at China Lake NAWC. It covers a fair portion of a large parking lot – the panels are on the roofs of covers that shade the parking rows (this makes for coveted parking in the summer). The irony was all the fluorescence lighting underneath – at night it was bright as day in that part of the lot.

Randy in Ridgecrest
Reply to  Randy in Ridgecrest
January 24, 2018 6:29 am

I need to keep my tenses straight – it’s still that way

January 24, 2018 6:51 am

Bitcoin is blockchain but not all blockchain is bitcoin.
1) Private blockchains (databases) do not require “mining.”
2) In private blockchains, “trusted parties” validate the transactions. Oops…
The beauty of blockchains is that transactions are recorded and can never be altered except by creating a new data entry. This would preclude the “dog ate my scientific data” problem, but still hinges on who controls the validation process and access to the data.
For an excellent primer on the use cases of blockchains, check out http://sammantics.com

Javert Chip
Reply to  markopanama
January 24, 2018 1:48 pm

If I have to read one more time how “blockchain” has perfected data integrity on computers, I am going to have to start drinking less expensive bourbon.
Blockchain data integrity and the tooth fairy live in the same place.

January 24, 2018 7:45 am

The last thing the carbon credits gang wants is blockchain. Would ruin all the corruption.

Reply to  ristvan
January 24, 2018 8:30 am

@ristvan: My thoughts exactly… what will be the saving grace in all this Climate dustup is the movement itself as it moves further away from any sense of reality, and accelerates logarithmically out of control to oblivion.

Javert Chip
Reply to  The Old Man
January 24, 2018 1:43 pm

In the inimitable words of…somebody or other, if something can’t continue on forever, then it won’t.

Reply to  ristvan
January 24, 2018 9:18 am

Is the blockchain that secure? I read frequently of a theft of Bitcoin.

Javert Chip
Reply to  Curious George
January 24, 2018 1:55 pm

Hardly anything in crypto-world is reported with transparency or verifiable data, but recent articles indicate average theft-loss among the 1,700+ crypto-currencies is 15%+. This does not include loss because you forgot your password.
I don’t know which is more stunning: that there are more than 1700 crypto-currencies, or the theft rate is “only” 15%+.

Reply to  ristvan
January 24, 2018 11:48 am

January 24, 2018 at 7:45 am
The last thing the carbon credits gang wants is blockchain. Would ruin all the corruption.
If it may help somehow…according to my understanding…regardless of whatever…these guys (at UN) seem to understand that being really left behind, because of a one’s self choice and decision, in the end of the day means clearly, that there is no any value, or merit to continuation…contemplated other wise.
Hopefully other players do start consider this as not a joke…
UN can not afford to be left behind when the world keeps moving forward…
For what I can see and say, that what seems to be happening up to now, it could be considered as the safest play that UN has made a choice at…now, for the moment.
Ok, am reading my reply to you and still even to me, it seems confusing!…;)
Sorry, comp problems, not sure if this made it through, so do not mind any multiple posting of this reply! (if it happens)!

Reply to  ristvan
January 24, 2018 9:34 pm

The alarmists would be using a “Hard Fork” every few years to keep the hustle running.

Reply to  joelobryan
January 25, 2018 1:03 pm

In case that it may further clarify my point…
The UN climata cabal has being assigned a new Priority Mission or Directive or goal, by the UN :
“a DTL in the Blockchain, for the UN” -Priority Directive.
“a Dummy Test Ledger in the Blockchain for the UN”……:)

January 24, 2018 8:55 am

Wrong application of the technology. In fact it could lead to even more erroneous data that would be near impossible to validate. Whoever controls the original source decides the “truth”. This is nothing more than another attempt to shape the propaganda.

January 24, 2018 8:55 am

They wouldn’t want their “proprietary” data falling into the prying hands of other scientists would they?

January 24, 2018 9:42 am

All this and they are gpoing to continue to tell the rest of us to use less energy. HYPOCRITS!

Bill Parsons
January 24, 2018 9:52 am

It makes sense to me. “Climate change data” is the cryptocurrency of every Green these days. That it should underwrite the glass greenhouse of the U.N. and their green initiatives is appropriate. Their message is every bit equal to the medium of exchange.

January 24, 2018 12:22 pm

Blockchain etc are just another method of clearing, much the same as visa etc. Consortiums that are inter inked through business dealings and payments are set up. These consortiums will clear funds amongst each other using psuedo currencies such as Bit coin. Of course this will involve all sorts of surity, trust, love and verification. Hence block chain data bases or open ledgers. I would need to have sight of the delivery note.

Javert Chip
Reply to  FundMe
January 24, 2018 2:05 pm

Fund me
Every 4-hours through the day, Visa (and presumably all other major payment processors) clear using good-ole’ bank accounts. In Visa’s case, I believe the Bank is Bank of America.
Technically, “clearing” is only necessary if the bank providing the credit card is different from the merchant’s bank (ie: if the credit card comes from Wells Fargo and the merchant banks at Wells Fargo, no clearing is involved).

Reply to  Javert Chip
January 28, 2018 10:52 am

This is only because Wells Fargo etc trust the fact that the other banks have done due diligence and vetting. This is the whole point of the vetting (verification) algorithims used by bitcoin and other psuedo currencies.

The Reverend Badger
January 24, 2018 12:40 pm

If and when any organisation is stupid enough to put anything of value or importance on an “open and transparent” blockchain it will be a matter of weeks, days or even minutes before North Korea, Russia, China or some mysterious anonymous entity mines the chain with their own vast computing power. This will be massively more than existing running nodes and a 51% attack will be childs play. They can then alter the blocks (i’e’ all the data) in any way they want or blackmail the organisation.
Effectively there is never going to be a real world practical use for any open blockchain as it is so so simple to sabotage it with sufficient computing power. For further information I recommend the book:
“Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain” by David Gerard (Available at Amazon).
As an additional point you will notice that some large companies are jumping on the “blockchain” bandwagon, e.g. EY . I recommend you pay very careful attention to this and move your investments/businesss away from such companies before the SHTF. At the very least they are wasting money and resources on this nonsense and in the worst case they are going to have a massive disruption/hack of blockchain data if they do launch something.

January 24, 2018 1:08 pm

UN now looking into pumping up its stock price now?
Oh, wait…

January 24, 2018 1:20 pm

Energy Web Foundation, Est. c. 2017, Incorporated Zug, Switzerland
“Energy Web Foundation is a global non-profit organization focused on accelerating blockchain technology across the energy sector.”
Co-created by the Rocky Mountain Institute and Grid Sustainability.
More information at:

Greg Cavanagh
January 24, 2018 1:33 pm

Climate data is not carbon credit transactions.
Climate data; is the observation data collected.

Javert Chip
January 24, 2018 1:34 pm

Wow…a “two-fer”: I believe this says everything you nerd to know about bitcoins or climate science.
Amazing symmetry!

January 24, 2018 2:05 pm

Gotcha ’cause it sounds trendy. I remember how everything had to be Java for about 10 minutes and before or after that, everything needed to be ‘object orientated’.

Smart Rock
January 24, 2018 5:04 pm

OK, I see how this blockchain stuff protects the integrity of every data entry after it’s entered into the “ledger”. Great stuff.
But how does it protect the integrity of the data before it goes into the chain?
Suppose they adopt it for carbon-credit trading, and suppose I run a nasty, vile, denialistic company with a nasty, filthy carbon-spewing power station burning nasty, vile carbon-laden coal. Further, suppose I install some “sequestration” technology for window-dressing, then tamper with my CO2 monitors to show how my “carbon emissions” have gone down by 50%, and I get 20,000 carbon credits? Then I sell those credits to Joe across the river who doesn’t tamper with his CO2 monitors (and I use some of the money to support all those vile denier groups who depend on donations from vile, evil, planet-destroying fossil fuel industries for their bloated incomes and hedonistic lifestyles).
The carbon-credit transactions are fraudulent, but they go into a chain and get “verified” by obscure people in obscure places doing obscure, pointless but absurdly energy-intensive things with garages full of high-powered computers. Finally, my transactions are verified and appear in the “ledger”. Where’s the verification in that? Do these obscure, tech-savvy people in obscure places come out and look at my CO2 monitors to see how I tampered with them? Do they come and interrogate my employees (whom, by the way, I’ve bribed quite generously to look the other way, using some of the profit from the carbon-credits I sold)?
As far as I can see, this blockchain thing is just a way of verifying transactions as entered, and a way of immortalizing erroneous or fraudulent data entries.
Sorry, I must be getting old. I’m missing something. Can somebody set me right?

Reply to  Smart Rock
January 24, 2018 7:43 pm

I suppose the climate SS will have inspectors and auditors come out occasionally to check your equipment and your books. If you can’t prove that you’ve donated to the right politicians and NGOs, the inspections will not go well for you.

January 25, 2018 7:04 am

Climate data integrity is an oxymoron.
Anyone who uses that phrase
is clearly confused.
And Bitcoin is old news.

January 26, 2018 4:48 am

Could you show us the list of the countries of the coalition?

February 5, 2018 11:10 pm

Great article! I think it will definitely help somewhat in the integrity. But I also think the effect of Bitcoins is a bit overestimated by UN

February 7, 2018 8:52 am

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant for bullshit” You sir are a legend!

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