Earth's Carbon Ledger

This prompt addresses a baseline need for the climate accounting system since it pertains to the atmospheric budget accounting.

PROMPT ES1Earth's Carbon Ledger — Build a near real-time atmospheric carbon budget counter with decentralized scientific consensus. You may adopt different approaches based on varying degrees of complexity in the processes and calculations. Integrate your system within the Open Climate Platform.

Prompt Host: Yale Openlab Discord [for communication] CoMakery [for task management]

You may adopt different approaches to tackle this prompt as it may suit your development background.

Background & suggested reading

Planet Earth’s atmosphere can hold a limited amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions before average global temperatures unleash the most costly and damaging impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement set a global goal of holding global warming well below 2oC and aiming for a 1.5oC limit of warming, relative to pre- industrial levels.

The limited quantity of emissions relative to this 1.5/2oC threshold has been termed our global ‘carbon budget’. Scientifically, the carbon budget is not a fixed number and never will be — it has an uncertainty range and the data and knowledge used to calculate it is updated every year (Rogelj et al., 2019). However, scientists estimate around 600 GtCO2e remains in the budget, while global annual emissions are around 40 GtCO2e. Thus, the key take-away when looking at the carbon budget science is that if present emission pathways are left unchecked, the budget could be consumed in as little as 15 years. After this, we’ve crossed an irreversible threshold in planetary resilience.

Earth data oracles & scientific consensus: towards a decentralized science-based accounting of the planet’s carbon budget

A foundational part of the open climate system architecture relates to the accounting of the planet’s physical state, as outlined in pillar 1 of the system. The underlying science of Earth System domain is covered by working group 1 of the IPCC. The role this segment has in the Open Climate architecture is to digitize, make visible and apply decentralized consensus to some of the key Earth metrics and variables that are to be considered by other functions and applications of the platform. In this instance, we have focused on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, the anthropogenic warming relative to pre-industrial level, and the tracking of the remaining carbon budget relative to 1.5oC.

Information on these key values of Earth’s state is to be updated in near-real time based on data sourced from various organizations. For example, to obtain an accurate measure of the amount of atmospheric CO2, we take the most recent readings of sensors from NASA, NOAA, and ESA and use statistical analytics to determine the most accurate and globally average record. This data processing is done by a multi-source oracle prior to committing the record on a blockchain.

The role of oracles

Oracle machines are abstract computers that can solve decision problems by executing complex mathematical formulas and act as an impartial untampered third-party agent. In their blockchain use, the oracle’s role is to filter, verify and harmonize real-world data so that it can safely integrate into the blockchain and be used, for example, in the execution of smart contracts. When equipped with machine-learning functionality, oracles can help rapidly resolve contradicting inputs or data anomalies prior to their entry on the blockchain. The blockchain does not store the raw environmental data from IoT sensors, but it can store its hashes, and the single record with agreed consensus.

Oracles act as the middle agent ensuring these steps are following a protocol, particularly in cases where multiple sensors are attesting to the same event and an impartial resolution is needed. The figure in the 'reference process' below shows the proposed information chain linking physical measurements of atmospheric CO2, the assessment of anthropogenic temperature increase and the eventual carbon budget tracking submodule. On-chain records such as temperature increase are then linked to the Paris Agreement smart contract, which queries the state of the planet in the progress to preventing warming below 1.5oC.

Your work on this prompt would be creating a basic oracle that is able to incorporate key external information into the database and blockchain ecosystem, making it available for use, for example, by smart smart contracts that depend on the planetary state.

The role of scientific consensus

Any climate information and insight requires scientific consensus, which is the main role provided by the IPCC, but particularly with respect to the carbon budget, this consensus is relevant since it is not a defined immutable value, in other words there isn't on tonne of carbon the blow out the budget altogether, it involved a delicate gradient. Furthermore, every year more information is made available, eg. better calculation models, that improves the assessment of the remaining budget making it a moving target. Certainly every year that budget is also consumed by the collective emissions we put out.

As a global community, we have two governance choices around the carbon budget. We can define a number (i.e. the remaining Gt of CO2 before hitting 1.5), which is an arbitrary or statistically informed value within the budget range, and we can collectively take this value as an agreed shared budget, with possibility to update it every other year or as new scientific evidence is made available. Or two, we don't define the value but we define the uncertainty range, which is inferred from the result of integrated assessment models. Either way, it involves a human decision factor if there is to be a single budget that the whole world is to stick to and be subject to any policy or mechanism derived from it.

Relevant Docs to Review:

Relevant summaries and useful links on the topic:

https://www.carbontracker.org/carbon-tracker-to-measure-worlds-power-plant-emissions-from-space-with-support-from-google-org/

The below paper describes in scientific detail how the remaining carbon budget is calculated:

Climate Spirals with the Carbon Budget

A very useful visualization of how carbon budgets relate to temperature and carbon concentrations

Sources for CO2 concentration

Global CO2 concentration trends are compiled by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the USA. This includes the CO2 measured by the famous Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii as well as all major CO2 sensor centers around the world.

Solution Suggestions and Processes

Below are three suitable approaches for this based on varying degrees of difficulty and complexity:

Simpler
Harder
Open
Simpler

A simple approach is to use the carbon counter from the Mercator Institute, which you can find below. In this case, you would be scraping or query the website for the information and re-routing it so its available to the Open Climate platform. It would not have much scientific consensus other than that you will be able to sign it as coming from the MCC, which has a very relevant reputation. However, you can review the MCC documentation and summarize it so it can be used by the Demo version of the Open Climate platform.

Harder

A medium difficulty approach could involve compiling the important building block information (eg. avg Co2, temperature increase, global emissions), allow for the integration of integrated assessment models (eg. Magicc), the referencing of peer-reviewed journals, and include a governance module for specific scientific consensus on the assumptions that the counter has.

The reference architecture below describes the data process flow of how all these components would combine and build towards the integration of the carbon budget module.

Open

Propose an alternative model and mechanism on how to achieve a carbon budget calculator that could have a high degree of consensus in order to be logged in a blockchain, and be a reference value for economic and policy mechanisms (for example, being used for carbon pricing—see prompt of 'climate-economy interface')

Reference process:

Integration into Open Climate

An end goal of this task is to then include your work into the Earth layer info within the Open Climate platform prototype.

Below is a reference of where a carbon budget counter would be included, and to the left the key values that would be integrated in regards to CO2 and temperature.