Carbon Should Be Programmable

The philosophy behind the Carbonlink API.

by Greenwashed

Carbon Should Be Programmable


Welcome back to Greenwashed! πŸ‘‹

Our philosophy as a newsletter has always been to highlight the emerging solutions in the fight against the climate crisis, like batteries made out of sand, debt-for-nature swaps, and Californian solar canals. We're optimists, and we believe that highlighting the progress we've made in solving such a massive problem is a key aspect of keeping that progress churning. πŸ“ˆ

Of all of the clever, inspiring, and straight-up impressive climate solutions we've covered, however, the one that is the focus of today's edition holds a special place in our hearts.

After all, we built it. πŸ’š

Atoms to Bits βš›οΈ

For the overwhelming majority of human history, innovation has always been physical.

The wheel, the steam engine, the cotton gin, the airplane, the microwaveable pizza roll--pretty much everything impressive our species has created since the beginning of time has resulted in a manifestation in the physical world. 🌎

Then, in the late 20th century, something very strange happened. We started innovating at an unprecedented rate, birthing new world-changing, billion-dollar companies and products in what seemed like every few weeks. These products, however, weren't in the physical world--they were online, made "real" only by the continued uptime of the internet.

In other words, innovation started being comprised of bits, not atoms. βš›οΈ

The switch from atoms to bits was fantastic in many regards, but the wave of capital flowing into developing the online world resulted in less being deployed to improve the physical world.

Want a real house in America? Too bad, we're 6.5 million short. Want a fake house in the metaverse? We have plenty. πŸ˜•

Essentially, we've halted innovation in atoms as we've poured capital into making the world of bits as robust as possible. Sidelining the physical world turned out to be a bit of a mistake; in case anyone has been living under a rock for the past few years, the physical world is getting increasingly anrgy at us.

Climate Change is an Atom Problem 🌎

As we spend our days immersed in the world of bits, the atoms in our atmosphere are screaming at us to wake up and do something about the anthropocene's impact on the physical environment.

Fortunately, we have a lot of good physical solutions--for example, just in the last decade solar power has seen incredible advancement in adoption and technological capacity, and this past year CDR has seen a massive boom in investment. πŸ“ˆ

As impressive as all of this tangible climate action is, it doesn't mean much if we can't keep it going, and the mechanisms for ensuring a continuous cycle of climate action are weak. Carbon markets are plagued by legitimacy issues, monopoly control, and, quite frankly, outdated market mechanics. πŸ“‰

In fact, the majority of carbon offsets, still to this day, are traded via paper contracts--a fact that no doubt influenced the following quote from our CEO about the state of carbon markets:

"This market seems like it's stuck in the '90s"- Mitchell Morrison, 2022
We have an atomic problem and atomic solutions, but somehow, the problem is still getting worse. So, what's missing?

Carbon is an atom problem, but in order to scale properly, we need to develop solutions in the world of bits. This is why we started Carbonlink in the first place; quite simply, we saw that the amazing capabilities of carbon projects were being held back by the poor capabilities of carbon markets. πŸ˜•

Some of the issues (double counting, liquidity provision, middleman taxes, etc.) were rectified simply via porting credits on to the blockchain--but we realized that in order to actually achieve our goal of properly scaling the carbon markets, we needed to do more.

Today's release of the API marks the biggest step we've taken towards that effort so far. πŸ™Œ

The Carbonlink API, from a technical perspective, is exactly what it sounds like: an interface to programmatically access our arsenal of over 30 million carbon credits. However, from a non-technical perspective, it represents something much greater: the transition to the world of bits.

Carbon offsetting used to be a process of hiring a broker, hiring a consultant to tell the broker what you need, having the broker contact a supplier and negotiate pricing, having the registries and lawyers sign off on everything to make sure it's all in order, and then just praying that your offset wasn't double-counted.

Now, that process has been reduced to entering an API key and clicking a button or two. It cannot be understated how important that is. Programmable carbon reduces the overhead, effort, due diligence, and cost of climate action by orders of magnitude by allowing anyone (with an API key, that is) to instantly access offsets to either retire or distribute them.

The physical world is siloed, but the internet is wide open, which allows levels of coordinated action unthinkable to even our recent ancestors. Essentially, the Carbonlink API is a modern solution to a modern problem, leveraging the capabilities of the online world to improve the physical one. βš›οΈ

Our world is built by atoms, but it runs on bits. The climate needs a solution that combines the two. That's exactly what we've built, and I couldn't be more proud of our team for doing it.

Carbon should be programmable. And now it is.

Thanks for reading! If you've been inspired to help out in the fight against the climate crisis, start by offsetting your emissions here or by subscribing below to stay up-to-date on all of the need-to-know climate problems and solutions. If you're interested in the API, book a demo here or feel free to reach out to us at