Blockchain technology can backbone the planetary solution to CO2

The biosphere is part of the complex planetary carbon system. A system whose balance maintains atmospheric carbon (inorganic carbon, CO2) at levels that are compatible with life. At least with life as it has been organized for the last tens of millions of years. Wow, long before we appeared on the scene, some 300,000 years ago.

Blockchain technology can backbone the planetary solution to CO2

In the previous article we commented on a solution strategy to the atmospheric CO2 problem, which is a solution, yes, but a partial solution.

It took shape in a set of very promising chemical-industrial research lines. However, in all of them we left aside the biosphere.

And the biosphere has been playing the role of an atmospheric and climate engineer for billions of years. It has a reputed ability to do so. For example, it was she who created the oxygen we breathe.


Having the biosphere can be considered as a necessity of an ethical and aesthetic order. We are its tenants and it is beautiful.

Furthermore, the biosphere is a storehouse of genetic knowledge (biodiversity) fundamental both for its own perpetuation and, let’s not forget, for our medicine and our biotechnology.

But, beyond these, there is another powerful motive.

The biosphere is part of the complex planetary carbon system. A system whose balance maintains atmospheric carbon (inorganic carbon, CO2) at levels that are compatible with life. At least with life as it has been organized for the last tens of millions of years. Wow, long before we appeared on the scene, some 300,000 years ago.

In this system of balances, the biosphere plays an important role as a carbon store, in the form of organic carbon (carbohydrate molecules that are part of everything that is alive or is woody matter, such as wood).

And if those balances are broken to the point that, for example, the oceans release a small percentage of the huge amount of carbon they have stored, things can get ugly. Especially for those species high in the food chain, of which we are the top.

And we may think that, at that point, our technology will save us. But that’s not true.


The human being does not yet have technological capacity on a planetary scale.

We still do not have, by far, the technological capacity to establish an artificial system of balances to replace the one maintained by the biosphere, atmosphere and oceans.

We just don’t have enough control over energy for it yet.

And it is very easy to show it. So much so that it never ceases to amaze me that the simple argument that follows is, as far as I have been able to investigate, new. When perhaps it would be appropriate for it to be taught in schools.

First of all, according to the IAE (International Energy Agency) report, world energy production during 2018 amounted to 14,421 Mtoe (by the way, 81% from fossil fuels!). (‘Mtoe’ or ‘million of tonnes of oil equivalent’ is the amount of chemically usable energy in one million tonnes of oil).

And this figure quantifies our current technological-energy capacity.

Second, the Earth’s climatic and biological system is fundamentally powered by three sources of energy (strictly speaking, we should say ‘ordered energy’ sources): Sun, geothermal heat, and gravity (terrestrial and lunar). Well, let’s ignore the last two and keep only the solar contribution.

And the amount of energy that the Earth receives from the Sun is 4.16 Mtoe every second. Or, what is the same, 131 million Mtoe each year.

Well, dividing both amounts, we see that our current technological capacity for energy production is more than 9,000 times less than the amount of energy that the Sun puts at the service of the terrestrial climatic and biological system.

Even assuming that only half of that energy actually enters the Earth’s biological and climatic machinery, the thing is clear:

We are still a long way from being able to become a global climate and ecosystem technologist. In fact, as a quantitative criterion, we will only have that capacity when our energy production is comparable to the solar contribution.

Meanwhile, let us bear in mind that a dwarf who thinks he is a giant does not incur pride, but stupidity.

And let us not be confused by our proven ability to destroy the balance. Destroying order is easy. The difficult thing is to build it. The latter alone is proof of technological wisdom and control.


Therefore, if the solution exists, it involves collaborating with the biosphere.

Why don’t we rely on plants, algae, and other photoautotrophic organisms capable of creating their own food from sunlight?

All of them are our natural allies in the challenge of lowering the concentration of atmospheric CO2 below the red danger zone in which it is found.

As we saw in the previous article, these organisms have a natural carbon fixation mechanism, photosynthesis. The same mechanism through which they get food (glucose). A process that evolution patented about 2.6 billion years ago and that since then, despite its persevering creativity, it has not been able to improve.

Therefore, the complete and definitive solution is to create a system that, while being economically viable, is also environmentally viable and, if possible, also socially viable. Change here ‘viable’ to ‘sustainable’ and we will have said the same.

We are not just talking about conserving. The conservationist model, specified in the UNESCO initiative for the creation of Biosphere Reserves, is useful and necessary. But what we are talking about here is to complement this model with an even more ambitious one: the establishment (reestablishment, in reality) of the symbiosis between human society and the environment.

Is this possible or just a utopian fantasy?

For my part, I am firmly convinced that it is possible. Moreover, in the present situation, in addition to the conditions of necessity, the conditions of opportunity concur.

In fact, I am personally involved in an initiative whose objective is to launch a model like this. I belong to the development team of a project with which Galicia, a forestry power, will be a pioneer in a new way of managing forests (clearly adapted to new needs and circumstances), as an initiative at the service of those who deem it useful since In Spain alone, there are more than 26 million hectares of forest ecosystems.


Exchanging idealism for pragmatism, let us reformulate what has been said so far in very different terms.

As the world moves, we can establish as a certainty that no human activity incapable of reporting economic value can be put into practice in a sustainable way over time.

Therefore, for an activity that generates environmental value to be feasible, it must also produce something with economic value.

And that’s exactly what it’s about:

For one thing, CO2 is a recognized problem. So much so that carbon fixation is something that has been given economic value via emission rights markets (as well as other models of financial assets whose underlying carbon may be to come).

On the other hand, forests are important stores of CO2. Not only during its growth (as a good approximation, half of the dry mass of any tree is carbon). But also during its mature life, as long as the forest is properly cared for in such a way that its carbon fixation dynamics remains active.

Therefore, a properly cared for forest is capable of generating income, in addition to other means, through the carbon fixation that takes place in it.

And since this fixation is indebted to human activities of caring for the forest, these activities are the legitimate recipients of said income.

With this as a lever point, all forestry socio-economic activities can be reinvented from the perspective of enhanced economic benefit.

Such activities include professional forest care, forest gathering tasks (forestry), cultivation in forests (agroforestry) and, of course, logging for the production of long-lived goods.

Even pruning for firewood can be considered beneficial for the maintenance of the ‘carbon fixation factory’ that is the forest, even if, where appropriate, they neutralize part of the net amount of carbon fixed by it.


According to data provided by the Institute of Agrarian Research, Spanish forests fix 120 million tons of CO2 per year, 37% of the total annual CO2 emissions produced in Spain.

In this sense, the role of the technological infrastructure that supports this initiative is to reliably certify the amount of additional carbon that each forest fixes in a certain period of time due to human intervention.

That is the basis of everything. And an additional key factor is that such certification is achieved at a low cost, so that what is eaten is not what is served.

At the end of the day, it is not about fixing carbon to finance the technological assembly that certifies it. That would be to confuse the means with the end. Falling into the perversion of putting the interests of those who provide service before the interests of the recipients of the service.

The point is that these fixation certifications, once they have been converted into salable products (interchangeable financial assets built with said fixings as content) and once the cost of the infrastructure has been discounted, generate relevant income for human care activities. Forest. Because these are the end.

Achieving that is not easy, but it is possible. It requires the integration of several technological solutions with a blockchain registry system as the backbone.

Said registry will function as an accounting system for fixations, certified and unforgeable. A kind of public diary and in stone of the forest, as far as carbon is concerned.

Carbon & mldr; or other issues. Because there are more services that forests provide us all. And, when the time comes, we will be able to include them one by one in the diary of each forest as a means of generating economic remuneration for the people who, through their care of the forest, make them possible.


Back in 1997 I attended a conference by Manuel Toharia in which he led the first debate that I witnessed on the economic valuation of environmental benefits. I linked that to a conversation with my brother a few years earlier about the loss of the socioeconomic meaning of forests (for the human communities around them) as a root cause of forest fires. And now to this we can also add: as one of the causes of aging and depopulation.

But all this remained an unanswered question until, during my professional stage in the innovation subsidiary of the Stock Exchange, I learned about the markets for CO2 emission rights. These pointed to a possibility of closing the circle to which the arrival and acceptance of blockchain technologies finally gave an adequate technological substrate as a vector for other technological solutions and procedures.

Because a forest that generates economic benefit is a forest that is cared for and protected. And a forest that is cared for and protected is a forest that generates environmental benefits.

Originally published at Explica .co