The World Needs Billions of New Trees– Here's 5 Ways Blockchain Can Help – DataDrivenInvestor

Mar 21
March 21st celebrates International Day of Forests — one of the most effective carbon sinks and protectors of biomes, clean water, and human civilization.
In 2015, Yale researchers made a shocking discovery — the world was home to more than 3 trillion trees, more than seven times the number scientists had previously estimated. Mapping forest cover by each square kilometer using satellite imagery and Big Data, the first-of-its-kind survey also found evidence of the steep decline in trees — about 46% — since the start of our civilization.
While almost 390 trees per person alive on Earth seems impressive, the capacity for forests to store carbon, protect air quality, and maintain healthy water supplies — what are now being called “ecosystem services” by ESG investors — means that we need to plant billions of new seedlings to help overcome the impacts of climate change and move closer to meeting the Paris Agreement targets of just 1.5C in warming by the end of this century.
A precious resource, forests provide diverse ESG benefits. Each tree has the capacity, at maturity, to store carbon at an average of 25kg per year, with billions of tonnes of CO2 sequestered by forests annually, amplified by the synergistic storage of ground plants and rich woodland soils. With one-fifth of the planet’s people, especially in developing countries, reliant on forests for their homes and livelihoods, preservation and reforestation is a key to greater equity and mitigating the disproportionate effects of climate change on the most vulnerable.
Forest restoration is a mechanism to achieve multiple goals, including climate mitigation, biodiversity conservation, socioeconomic benefits, food security, and ecosystem services.
“Restoring forests as a means to many ends”, Science
Another lesser-known beneficial impact of new tree growth is in combatting the growing challenges of large-scale soil erosion. which threatens essential fresh water supplies and millions of hectares of arable farmland globally, in addition to releasing mass amounts of greenhouse gases. In the past 12,000 years, human activities have released an estimated 133 billion tonnes of carbon from the soil from crop production and animal grazing.
Our trillions of trees stand between us and a future of out-of-control global warming, battles over dwindling fresh water supplies, and the sharp reduction of global food production. It’s not an exaggeration to say that if the current rate of severe deforestation — an area about the size of Costa Rica each year — continues, humanity probably won’t.
The challenge is immense and urgent, but digital solutions are showing promise for helping restore critically needed forests, including planting and supply chain automation, AI analytics, and drone and IoT monitoring. Best known as the foundational technology of cryptocurrency, but with applications across climate action, blockchain is emerging as a strong solution for taking climate action.
Here are five of the key ways blockchain is creating positive changes:
1. Tokenized Offsets
2021 was the year that the global market for voluntary carbon credits exploded, but as companies across the world made ambitious net-zero commitments, numerous studies showed epidemic levels of fraud, misrepresentation and double-spending. By issuing carbon credits as blockchain tokens, the entire history of the credit, including data captured directly from devices, is immutably represented as token data and follows the credit across different transactions and marketplaces. These innovative assets, like the tokens GuildOne launched in a 2022 initiative with rewilding organization Project Forest, can be traded as investments, applied as emissions offsets or used as the basis for financial instruments like Natural Asset Companies (NACs) and green funds.
“Our collaboration with Project Forest reflects the strength of blockchain tokenization as a tool to increase trust, traceability and accessibility of existing environmental projects.”
Barry Kreiser, CTO, GuildOne Inc.
2. Crypto Crowdfunding
Planting billions of trees means closing a gap of billions of dollars in climate financing, and not all of this funding will come from the sale of carbon offsets — it will also take significant donations and equity participation in green projects like ecotourism or sustainable harvesting. Peer-to-peer blockchain fundraising is revolutionizing forest protection with projects like crypto exchange Binance’s pledge to plant 10 million trees through crypto and NFT fundraising.
3. Environmental Governance
For forestry protection to be equitable, benefits need to go to the local communities who call these ecosystems home — it’s important to recognize that in many developing countries, Indigenous peoples face the loss of resources and income through conservation. Blockchain and decentralized finance are an innovative way to ensure that communities receive direct payments for ecosystem protection, like a model developed for Namibia that would use device monitoring to assess the status of elephant habitat lands, and then automatically trigger smart contract payments to residents if the area has remained undeveloped.
“Planting trees costs money and without intuitional investment it will not be possible to reverse the deforestation challenges the world currently faces. Blockchain technology to track and verify tokenized offsets for ecosystem services is one of the most promising tools emerging that will give intuitional investors the transparency they need to invest in large scale afforestation projects.”
Mike Toffan, Executive Director, Project Forest
4. Trusted Sustainable Development
One of the leading use cases for business blockchains is in securing and automating supply chains by providing an unbroken chain of provenance data that tracks products from origin to transaction — and in forestry and conservation, it’s supporting greater trust in projects and the sustainable origins of lumber. With reports that more than 60% of lumber is currently misrepresented or fraudulent, this trust is key to building confidence in reforestation projects that raise funds based on sustainable cultivation and harvesting, with several non-profit initiatives already on the market.
5. Metaverse Conservation
Gamification is making conservation and climate action engaging and fun, and interactive digital twins of real-world ecosystems could be the future of forest protection. Embedded in the metaverse, an interconnected network of 3-D virtual worlds, parts of digital forests could be claimed through sponsorships and updated on their real-world counterparts through device monitoring, with opportunities to build in games and crypto rewards. As part of Binance’s TreeMillion Alliances project, the company is building a metaverse forest of NFTs and targeting 100 corporate sponsors by March 21st, 2022.
The deeper public engagement, automated operations and scalable financing for conservation and reforestation could be a crucial advantage in the climate crisis — especially if, as some researchers believe, billions of trees is just the beginning. According to a Swiss study published in the journal Science, the right number might be a trillion, an almost unimaginable undertaking.
“Excluding existing trees and agricultural and urban areas, we found that there is room for an extra 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover, which could store 205 gigatonnes of carbon in areas that would naturally support woodlands and forests.”
“The global tree restoration potential”, Science
It’s something to contemplate this March 21st, which marks International Day of Forests — what can we do for our forests to help them hold back the worst effects of our changing climate? How do we build strategies for climate action that look beyond simple calculations of carbon offsets, and work holistically and equitably to support the people who have been their traditional guardians and inhabitants?
Blockchain is far from the only solution, but it works synergistically with other data technologies to create a foundational system that ties monitoring and measurement directly to a digital forestry economy that will be accessible across borders — and importantly, can engage the participation of the next generation of forest protectors.
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Blockchain, AI and how digital technology is changing our world. Executive Director of the Canadian Blockchain Association for Women. Tweet @alexisgpappas