Additional contributions to this post made by Andy Anderson. Special thanks to Robert Krossa and Ben Pliska for their knowledge and expertise.

Climate talks in Glasgow last fall highlighted that many of the world’s most prolific carbon producers are also the wealthiest, and less-developed countries are disproportionately feeling the impacts of climate change.

Financial inequalities between the top and bottom of the global economy have never been wider. Focus at these talks has revolved around not just offsetting and counteracting the current climate crisis but how wealthier climate offenders can begin to make reparations for the harm they’ve caused to vulnerable communities. 

In an increasingly environmentally-conscious economy, the sale of carbon credits is rising in popularity as a method of offsetting environmental impact. However, there is little in the way of transparency and traceability to ensure that impact is truly being offset. 

Here at Synapse, we’ve been thinking about how we, as a company, can leverage our experience to help mitigate climate change. What might we build that would increase transparency in the carbon credit market? 

We’ve been successful at making low-energy, battery-powered devices for remote monitoring. We’re also well-versed in imagining and designing how our devices fit into the context of a system. 

So let’s imagine a device that monitors temperature and has a Bluetooth® connection. According to the World Health Organization, nearly a third of Earth’s population cooks over open fires using inefficient and polluting fuels like kerosene, biomass, and coal. A lot of those humans happen to have Bluetooth®-enabled cell phones. If we paired our imagined device with a cleaner stove alternative (like those already being produced by the company BURN), we could: monitor and record the runtime of the stove and calculate the difference in CO2 emissions (in comparison with an open fire), and add verifiable carbon credits to a marketplace. 

A cooking pot stove using firewood as fuel.

To illustrate how this could work, we’ll work backward using estimates provided by the company BURN and this paper on emission reductions by substitution of improved cookstoves. For some added context: 1 Carbon Credit = -1 Metric Tons of CO2 = -1MgCO2. 

BURN claims its stove reduces CO2 by 2.3 to 3 MgCO2 compared to a traditional open pit cooking fire. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll err on the conservative side and say a more efficient stove reduces CO2 at a rate of 2MgCO2/Year. Referencing carbon credit values in this article from Bloomberg, the average price of a carbon credit worldwide is roughly $20, which means every hour the stove is running, the user would produce a value of $0.00456 via a carbon credit exchange. Over a year, this generates around $40 in carbon credit value. The stove retails for $40, so it could pay for itself in a year, and the following year, it will pay for another stove for someone else or generate passive income for the user.

This is just one example of how Synapse—with an eco-conscious partner—could enable cradle-to-grave traceability to the carbon credit market, contributing in a concrete and transparent way to help address financial inequalities between the top and bottom of our global economy.