Bitcoin's carbon problem, Weather, & Amazon defender Marina Silva

The newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate.

(source: wikipedia)

Issue No. 70

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate. 

During Women’s History Month, we will honor the trailblazers who helped shape the climate movement.

Marina Silva, Amazon rainforest defender

Marina Silva is a Brazilian environmentalist. She is one of the few public figures in Brazil to openly defend environmental concerns, and the main public voice of sustainability in Brazil. However, from an idealogical point of view, most of her supporters identify themselves with her life story rather than with her discussion of sustainability. Born to a very poor family of rubber tappers and raised in the middle of the Amazon jungle, Silva breaks the mold for Brazilian leaders and represents sectors of the black and indigenous populations that are often neglected.

In terms of climate change issues, Silva is known for her struggles to protect the rainforest from illegal logging. She has a track record of taking on powerful vested interests when she worked as an environment minister: Silva imprisoned more than 700 people for environmental crimes and slashed the rate of deforestation in half. This meant clashing with the big agricultural businesses responsible for 20% of Brazil’s GDP. More than that, her name represents the opposition to large estates of soybean and genetically modified crops as well as cattle raising. Additionally, she believes that it is not necessary to sacrifice development to implement a green agenda.

While the rest of the world is starting to talk about the pressing need to discuss climate change and sustainability, Brazil continues to turn the other way under pretenses that developing the country’s economy is more relevant than protecting the environment right now. This presents a very relevant challenge to Silva’s possibilities of defending the environment and, more specifically, Brazil’s Amazon forest. She strongly defends a climate change agenda should be a priority in Brazil. Her voice is increasingly relevant given the recent forest fires in the Amazon that have devastated the region.

Founder of Brazil’s Sustainability Network, Silva believes that: “Sustainability is perhaps the one chance we have of starting a new cycle of prosperity for humanity.”

Silva is currently the leader of Brazil’s main Sustainability focus Party (REDE), having previously served as a senator of the state of Acre between 1995 and 2011 and Minister of the Environment from 2003 to 2008. She also ran for president in 2010, 2014, and 2018.

We’ll keep you posted on the latest carbon policy, people and market insights as they happen. 

If you have an opinion on any topic covered in this newsletter, please feel free to send me an email at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com. 

Thank you for your viewpoint and the value of your time.

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QUOTES

Climate and related quotes that will inspire you

1. “I feel that one of the most important things I can do is connect climate change to the values, the faith, and the issues we already care about. And if, in the process, I have to sidestep around some very explosive mines, I will do that.” ~ Katherine Hayhoe

Dr. Hayhoe’s research focuses on evaluating future impacts of climate change on human society and the natural environment by developing and applying high-resolution climate projections. She also presents the realities of climate change by connecting the issue to values people hold dear and positive, constructive solutions. On March 1, 2021, Dr. Hayhoe was named Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

2. “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” ~ Mark Twain

Credo: Talk is cheap when it comes to carbon and climate. Do something!

3. “Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together.” ~Ashanti Proverb

Credo: Listen more. Talk less. Find common ground on climate change.  


BOOKS

Weather

Written by Jenny Offill

Jenny Offill breaks through the 15-year gap between her first and second novels, the bestselling Dept. of Speculation (2014) and her new book, Weather (2020), which takes a similarly clever diary-like tack, but it's even better — darkly funny and urgent, yet more outwardly focused, fueled by a growing preoccupation with the scary prospect of a planet in peril.

While marriage and motherhood remain on the radar, Weather swirls around amber waves of dread. Offill's signature achievement in this book is to capture the angst specific to our particular moment in time — the rising tide of anxiety, especially in New York City, about a world threatened by climate change and the ascension of right-wing strongmen. Offill astutely compares the "hum in the air" to the one that followed 9/11. This potent, appealing little bookis about how we weather this sense of doom — with humor, incredulity, panic, disaster preparedness, or, best of all, action.

Creed Comments: Offill’s “Weather” does a masterful job of navigating the psychological burden of an impending climate crisis.

Climate anxiety is no stranger to fiction. However, Offill’s Weather makes one consider the inevitable and accelerating encroachment of climate change on the foundations of what we consider normal life. It is a reminder that in a time of crisis, when climate emergency threatens to worsen into catastrophe, inaction is a moral failure.

These days it’s hard to find a well written, climate novel- this is one of the best. Read it.


INSIGHTS/MARKETS

(source: Wired)

Bitcoin’s Carbon Problem

At a time when companies and investors increasingly say they are focused on climate and sustainability issues, some of them may be about to collide with the reality of another financial trend, one currently worth about $1 trillion: Bitcoin.

The cryptocurrency has become inescapable, with big companies like Tesla and individual investors alike rushing to stock up on the digital token.

As Bitcoin becomes more popular, the more resources its ecosystem consumes. To put this into perspective, one Bitcoin transaction is the “equivalent to the carbon footprint of 735,121 Visa transactions or 55,280 hours of watching YouTube,” according to Digiconomist, which created what it calls a Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index

All of which raises a crucial question: Does the movement among investors toward companies that rank highly for environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues pose an existential threat to Bitcoin’s success?

How will investors view the likes of PayPal, which has been a vocal proponent of climate initiatives — but last fall announced plans to allow customers to conduct transactions in Bitcoin?

Or what about Square - the payments company has become one of the most public proponents of Bitcoin, both dealing with transactions and also keeping the cryptocurrency on its own balance sheet. It holds about 5 percent of its cash reserves in Bitcoin, whose price has historically been deeply volatile.

Then there is Tesla — a company whose entire premise is to help reduce climate change through lower carbon emissions — which has invested more than $1.5 billion of its balance sheet in Bitcoin. How would its Bitcoin holdings affect its sustainability score?

Then there is BlackRock — the largest money manager in the world, with $9 trillion under management — which has stated that all investments the company makes in the future will be evaluated, in part, on how they plan to meet the climate challenge.  And yet, BlackRock has plans to “dabble” in the cryptocurrency by potentially allowing two of its funds to invest in Bitcoin futures. 

Will owning Bitcoin become a status symbol — or a scarlet letter for a new generation of climate-focused investors wise to the challenges it poses?

The answer is complicated.

Bitcoin supporters say that estimates of its carbon footprint are overstated. And if the computers that mine and help transact bitcoins are attached to an electric grid that uses wind and solar power, they add, mining and using it will become cleaner over time.

So far, Bitcoin’s carbon problem hasn’t slowed down its price, which was hovering Saturday night around $59,000 for a token, up from about $8,000 a year ago. Stay tuned folks.

[This post was adapted from the original by Andrew Ross Sorkin, a columnist and the founder and editor-at-large of DealBook]

Creed Comments: While I am concerned about the carbon footprint of Bitcoin, I believe that as the electric grid decarbonizes, this problem will subside. A more compelling problem is the role of Bitcoin mining in the growing energy inequality across the world. Consider the following table:

(source: Energy for Growth Hub)

The deep human story here is the yawning chasm of global energy inequality. Can you believe that California gamers will soon use more electricity than 100 million people in Ethiopia? Bitcoin already consumes more power than 200 million people in Nigeria.

Clearly, there needs to be more emphasis placed on energy inequality, especially in the global south. International leaders must address this issue hand-in-hand with the global climate equity gap. I say put it on the agenda for COP-26 Glasgow 2021!


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