Complex Made Simple

Between cows, dollars, and bitcoins, which are earth’s biggest polluters?

ROI has so far trumped sustainability, putting earth’s climate on an irreversible path but are businesses finally gearing up to invest in unison in ecology-friendly projects?

Globally, 14.5% of human-driven greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production Each recession has brought trillions in wealth destruction which took an enormous amount of carbon to create Industry regulations were an underlying reason for investing in environmental issues

Cow meat is producing CO2 in a noticeable fashion and bitcoin is less damaging to the environment than the mighty dollar.

ROI has so far trumped sustainability, putting earth’s climate on an irreversible path but are businesses finally gearing up to invest in unison in ecology-friendly projects? 

Cow CO2   

According to Bloomberg Green, there’s no escaping the fact that beef is a climate villain. Cows’ ruminant digestive system ferments grass and emits methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Cattle’s relatively long lifespan compared to other meat sources adds to their climate impact.

Globally, 14.5% of human-driven greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production, with cattle responsible for two-thirds, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. 

Per gram of protein, beef production has more than 8 times that of poultry and 113 times that of peas, according to a 2018 analysis of global production in the journal Science.

Dollar vs bitcoin  

There is a huge environmental impact of the infrastructure that sustains fiat money and the enormous collateral damage that fiat brings. These secondary effects make fiat money orders of magnitude more energy-destructive than bitcoin

You can appreciate fiat’s secondary footprint from any street corner on Earth: 80,000 bank branches and 470,000 ATMs in the U.S. alone, along with forests of skyscrapers that dominate every city on the planet. 

The dollar economy means billions are taking the subway or driving to the office. It’s how fiat money works.

Also, fiat money has caused a recession every 5.6 years, to be precise, in the U.S. since the Federal Reserve’s founding, by manipulating the pace of money creation that drives the boom-bust cycle, not only there but in other economies pegged to the Dollar.  

Each recession has brought trillions in wealth destruction, wealth that took an enormous amount of resources and, yes, an enormous amount of carbon to create.

To translate this recession cost into something that can be compared to bitcoin, the most mainstream estimate of the carbon cost of a dollar of GDP is about 1.5 kWh (kilowatt-hour), per dollar. 

Then, using the Federal Reserve’s own estimate of $11 trillion destroyed peak to trough in the 2008 crisis, the very crisis that inspired Satoshi to create bitcoin, that comes out to 16,500 TWh (terawatt hour) of carbon equivalence destroyed during that single recession. Accounting for the rest of the world, that might triple.  

So bitcoin, by taking purchasing power out of central banks’ manipulation space, can reduce or even eliminate their ability to cause boom-bust cycles.

Even bitcoin’s worst critics allege the distributed network consumes no more than 86 TWh per year and so it would take between 500 and 1,000 years for bitcoin’s energy use to even approach the 2008 crisis alone.   

Read: Billionaires and their eco-tourism attempts at saving the earth’s climate

Read: Earth Day: Is humanity finally waking up to the serious issue of climate change?

Boiling planet

Nine of the 10 warmest years since 1880 have occurred since 2005, and the 5 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2015.

Now climate scientists have concluded that we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040 if we are to avoid a future in which everyday life around the world is marked by its worst, most devastating effects: extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, tropical storms, and other disasters that we refer to collectively as climate change. 

Our current era of global warming is directly attributable to human activity, specifically to our burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas, which results in the greenhouse effect. 

In the US, the largest source of greenhouse gases is transportation (29%), followed closely by electricity production (28%) and industrial activity (22%).

Businesses on sustainability investments

Climate change, materials use, air pollution, solid waste, and resource availability were the top sustainability issues business executives identified for investment, according to a new global research study sponsored by SAP. 

“Improving the Environment at Planetary Scale: A Survey of Business Drivers and Actions” explores steps businesses are taking to improve the environment and the challenges they face. 

Based on feedback from more than 7,400 business executives, spanning 19 countries and 16 industries, the survey also found:

The greatest percentage of respondents (29%) said industry regulations were an underlying reason for investing in environmental issues, while 26% cited risks to company reputation.

Uncertainty as to how to embed sustainability into business processes and IT systems was seen as the greatest barrier to implementing plans for action, at 35%. Aligning the proposed actions with the overall business strategy (34%) was second and difficulty proving ROI (33%) followed.

“The results of this study show that that 83% of businesses do not believe that environmental impacts are material to their business right now,” SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Daniel Schmid said. “Businesses need to recognize that environmental issues are important now. With an increasing percentage of consumers focused on the values and ethics of the businesses they buy from, we have an important responsibility to help organizations better understand the business impacts of the climate crisis, overcome the barriers identified in this report and accelerate their pace toward climate action.”