Sustainability NNS Proposal

Proposal to establish a carbon footprint and sustainability policy for the Internet Computer.

Hello ICP community!

I’m creating this thread to begin a discussion around a Green Proposal for the NNS. My intention in this thread is to gather feedback, support and community buy-in for this proposal.

My proposal is for a “Sustainability NNS Proposal” to the Internet Computer. This proposal would have three key attributes:

  • Ask DFINITY to conduct a carbon footprint / environmental impact assessment - either through internal resources or hiring an external consultant to answer basic questions about what the carbon footprint of running a IC Subnet is, where that electricity is sourced, what the total cost per transaction is on the IC blockchain
  • Ratify that the Internet Computer community believes in global warming, it is a man made problem with huge ramifications for people everywhere, and it’s in the Internet Computer’s interest to support efforts to be more environmentally sustainable
  • Add an “energy consumption” reporting panel to the IC Network Status dashboard

Motivation

It is an ethical imperative for all of us to work together to improve the future of our planet and ecosystem. Taking a position as an environmentally sustainable crypto is good business for the Internet Computer, positive branding and positioning for the Internet Computer, and largely already taking place - we just need to codify it.

The goal of this proposal is to educate people that sustainability = environmental + social + economic impacts. Ideally the IC can address all of these impacts eventually, and this policy is starting by focusing on environmental impact.

“Going green” provides a marketing opportunity for The Internet Computer to enter the discussion around electricity usage and the blockchain. Solana’s report on electricity usage earlier this year made massive PR waves in the mainstream media outside of the crypto echo chamber. (1)

In addition, discussion of Bitcoin and Eth’s POW model has become a toxic talking point about the evils of crypto - hard numbers and coherent talking points about IC’s policy on these issues would give our marketing a new major talking point to push. I want to be able to answer inquiries like this one from twitter with strong data and a clear message. (2)

Finally - my intention is that this proposal be structured to set a general direction for the Internet Computer when it comes to environmental concerns. The Internet Computer is currently positioning itself for massive breakout growth, and nothing in this proposal should slow or limit that growth. Instead it combines research and reporting with marketing and intention - we can look at the data that comes back and submit additional proposals related to this topic in the future. The Internet Computer was designed with energy efficiency in mind, and already claims “Systems built 100% on the Internet Computer run with efficiency comparable to the traditional IT stack, providing massive savings in costs and protecting the environment.” (3) The Internet Computer is already a highly efficient green blockchain and web host. (4) This proposal aims to codify that fact, measure it, and officially promote it.

I am looking for actionable feedback to improve this proposal, help communicate its goals more clearly, and rally support for its passing overwhelmingly on the NNS.

My intention is to produce Rev 2 for further comments ~seven days from now, and close the thread and submit the proposal to the NNS in two weeks.

Thank you for your feedback and consideration!

Links:

  1. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/one-solana-transaction-uses-little-114956337.html
  2. https://twitter.com/Skeletoony/status/1505953212939001863
  3. https://dfinity.org/icig.pdf
  4. https://icpjesse.medium.com/crypto-in-the-age-of-climate-change-d3816bd016f9
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I like this proposal a lot. I think you are making a smart business case for how the IC could differentiate itself on this topic compares to other blockchains. This is important to a lot of people globally and even if it’s not important to some people it doesn’t seems like it harms anyone. This seems like low hanging fruit for the internet computer.

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Thanks for tearing yourself away from other NNS drama to comment Wenzel. Looking forward to more feedback and edits from you, and very appreciative of your support since I’ll be relying on ICPMN to submit the proposal for me :crossed_fingers:

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Just to clarify, it’s not ICPMN that is submitting this proposal. It is me individually. I would do it for anyone who wants to submit a well deliberated proposal, even if I don’t agree with it, because I want to make it easy for people to submit quality proposals. I have no idea how ICPMN would vote on this proposal, but I can say I will vote yes.

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sorry for introducing confusion. I’m off to make a “certified fresh by Wenzel” badge for it so people know I’ve got endorsements. (actually making a movie poster style art with actual quotes of endorsement isn’t a bad idea…)

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How lucky we are for having you. Thank you so much. :pray:

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Thanks for this Jesse. I just want to throw this related idea into the mix: Zero-carbon subnets

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Thank you, @icpjesse

This is brilliant. I’ll be following the discussion with interest and voting as appropriate.

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Cool idea @icpjesse, I would vote in favor of this proposal.

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Feedback on the three bullet points:

Firstly, point 2,

I don’t think this is necessary. Beliefs fall under the same category as Opinions, and some people’s opinions will never align with the majority. Focus on the facts.

Your first bullet point:

This is a clear, “Yes.” In terms of type of assessment and internal, or external; here is a paper produced by Tezos, though it was privately commissioned it uses the review process, which is absolutely essential: https://tezos.com/2021-12-06-Tezos-LCA-Final.pdf . All this stuff will take time, commissioning a private study like this would seem the quickest way to get the ball rolling.

Regarding, “…where that electricity is sourced…” IPFS is working on a progressive approach. They intend to issue Bakers using renewable energy with certificates and IPFS users will be able to choose these Bakers as custodians of their data Filecoin Green

Transparency is key, it therefore feels appropriate to suggest Dfinity works with several Universities with leading climate and crypto departments from different parts of the world to carry out a range of studies. It may be that other blockchains are more efficient, but that is not the point (IMO). The first objective is to design a provably robust reporting mechanism so people know IC emission data is true, the second objective is to establish that the IC is less impactful than traditional/legacy systems.

Not all truths will be palatable, but without the information appropriate decisions cannot be made.
More broadly, using universities could enable comparison with compute and storage on AWS, comparison of streaming on YouTube and Spotify, comparison of payment transactions with Credit and Debit Cards. This kind of data may assist Developers with their architectural choices (IDK, but it’s a starting point).

This is also a, “yes.” However, it probably follows some of the above.

Accepting that there will be a climate impact is necessary. Nothing is entirely “Carbon Neutral” and one has to be mindful that the public isn’t stupid. Therefore, Carbon Offsetting is a tool that needs to be used carefully (We’re living in a golden age of greenwash | Greenpeace UK).

Finally, what IF… the Community Fund included a pool of money Universities studying climate impact could apply to for (say) $10k grants to top up nearly funded studies?

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@NickM Just wanted to drop a note to say thank you for such considered and nuanced feedback. I’m about to post another comment specifically on bullet point two, and I’m in agreement on updating it. I’d welcome specific language suggestions for how to rewrite it for the same resulting impacting decision making prioritizing sustainable solutions, but without the belief part. Or would you say simply cut it altogether?

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Pulling in this conversation between myself, Coolpineapple18 and @wpb on twitter which I think has excellent feedback (edited to remove usernames for readability)

threaded from this tweet: https://twitter.com/CoolPineapple18/status/1512327525032251395

:pineapple:I personally believe that the climate and biodiversity crisis is the biggest threat we face and like the idea of making the #IC the greenest blockchain. So I generally support the concrete steps to monitor consumption, have a dashboard and target reductions…

:pineapple:…However I’m uncomfortable with the NNS ratifying a belief. IMHO global warming is a fact supported by a huge amount of scientific data but I don’t think the NNS should be in the business of making statements. The point of blockchains is credible neutrality.

:pineapple: If we open the door of making non technical statements of belief then we have become then things get very political very fast. As individuals we may stand with Ukrainian, believe in global warming, support BLM… ect but a technical system should not be in the business of belief…

:pineapple:we should be a neutral platform for the world with certain technical properties - including energy efficiency - not a DAO with beliefs that takes a stance on issues. If we do that we lose people countries and cultures who disagree as potential users.

Then @wpb chimed in:
I can agree with your concern about ratifying a “belief” and wouldn’t mind seeing that language changed in the proposal to something that would be perceived to be more diplomatic. However, there is a strong marketing opportunity here that makes the proposal worth pursuing.

:pineapple:I would just edit the middle bullet point to make environmentally sustainability an ongoing objective. (Similar in framing to long term R&D proposals on other topics Motion Proposals on Long Term R&D Plans)

:pineapple: BTW: There is some tension with performance and security eg replication factor but we can frame this as an objective “how do we improve environmental sustainability without sacrificing security and performance” and I think that question could lead to interesting designs.

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Cut it.

And I say this with an itchy typing finger as I am a sucker for a debate! But let’s not create a drain on headspace for countering individual opinions.

FYI: I am a fan of the Trivium, which structures arguments into three parts:

Grammar = identify the object of the discussion. A “Sustainability NNS Proposal” will provide transparency of the Internet Computers energy usage. Metrics can include, txts, storage, etc. Energy usage of the InternetComputer is currently unknown. A “Sustainability NNS Proposal” addresses the absence of such data.

Logic = examples of the grammar in action. Other chains are reporting energy usage of txts, storage, etc (examples) and are delivering reports (examples). This enables comparison of energy usage (examples). Those blockchains reporting Energy usage are attracting attention from energy conscious developers and users.

Rhetoric = personal opinion. This always come last! IMO transparent reporting of the InternetComputer’s Energy Usage MAY provide dev insight into more efficient tech/smart contract solutions and MAY help society address the Climate Crisis. BUT we will only know this once we have access to trustworthy data.

Trivium - Wikipedia.

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Hi All! Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback on here or on twitter, especially @NickM @diegop @alexa.smith @wpb @Kyle_Langham and CoolPineapple on twitter - your time and effort to engage in this project has been super helpful, and as always reminds me what makes the IC community and the NNS unique.

My edits are minor and simple: I’m eliminating the second bullet point about belief and climate change - I’d love to include it, but would rather separate it out into a separate proposal down the road with more action attached to it for long term sustainability planning. This proposal works best as a first step to gather data and set a broad direction.

My updated bullet points are below - please feel free to submit more feedback and we will move this to the NNS shortly for voting! Because the motivation section is unchanged, I’m omitting it from this part, but feedback there is also welcome.

cheers!

  • Jesse
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What about those of us that just want to see the world burn…

cycles?

a good idea is a good idea…

6cgngt

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Me: I have a lot of work to get to today.
Also Me: ok one more meme but this one has @Kyle_Langham

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Perfect.

Will follow updates with interest and look forward to participating in votes!

Hi.

This is Luis from DFINITY.
My team was responsible for supporting node providers with building the 1st generation of data centers founding the infrastructure of the IC.

The infrastructure of the IC runs in professional data centers. The majority of the datacenter providers are already carbon neutral. This is mainly because this market is an oligopoly which doesn’t allow many differences between competitors. This of course means that we have to trust their emission reports.
We thought about making carbon neutral data centers mandatory, but there were different reasons why we decided not to do so:

  • The community wouldn’t be able to verify that and as I said above on the end everybody including the node provider would need to trust the data center provider or the entities that certified them.
  • This requirement would exclude smaller data centers providers that are important for the decentralisation of the network.
  • The footprint of the IC isn’t only defined by the power consumption of the nodes and the cooling. A lot of resources and energy was needed to build the hardware. The intent of the IC is that every node that was added to network will be used as long as there enough nodes to create a subnet. Because they are running in a optimal environment and seven nodes are enough to create a subnet the IC nodes can run for much longer than in legacy cloud platforms.
  • We don’t want to support greenwashing. The sustainability of the IC isn’t lonely defined by the power consumption.

Not sure if this needs an NNS proposal. I would even say that ppl that don’t believe in global warming and its consequences would hardly understand what the IC is.
Speaking from three years at DFINITY I can confirm that environmental sustainability is an objective in almost everything we do. From avoiding traveling and commuting to refurbishing workstations to avoiding plastics in the office.
The interest of the IC is the sustainable use of all resources involved to run a canister. Beginning with hardware and going up to the protocol efficiency. And there is a lot of potential for improvements but different levels of control. The community can improve the protocol efficiency but we can’t control the hardware efficiency. I personally would like to see hardware vendors optimizing the environmental footprint of the hardware. Actively recycling resources and using them to build new hardware for example. Or using reusable packaging for their hardware.

That’s technically hard to achieve. Estimating the power consumptions doesn’t make sense. We would need to enforce smart PDUs in the data centers. We did that with our lab racks. These PDUs are expensive and data centers bill you for installing and running custom PDUs. Some data centers don’t allow them because they need that data themselves to decide about cooling needs based on the power consumption.
Even if we would be able to get that data from every rack running IC nodes it would only show the power consumption of the nodes. The cooling power isn’t measured. Some data centers are highly efficient. Hot aisle and cold aisle are separated and controlled strictly. They have recuperators that are getting back the energy from the hot aisle. Other data centers care much less about the cooling efficiency which can make almost the half of the total power consumption.

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Hi Luis -

Thanks for your detailed notes, as well as your work at DFINITY!

I wanted to provide a few questions and follow up to your notes:

  • We don’t want to support greenwashing. The sustainability of the IC isn’t lonely defined by the power consumption.

I picking this out for a stand-in for all of your notes from my first bullet point, but they are all good. Please note this section asks for an audit and report, not a requirement. I also fully support your statement here about not embracing greenwashing - I guess my question is how to do get more info to work with and market IC as a green blockchain without greenwashing? Right now I have almost nothing to work with regarding IC’s carbon footprint. I embrace you wanting a holistic picture, but I also feel like I want more reporting and info than we have now. I’m open to rewording this section asking for a report if you have specific suggestions on how to do it.

Not sure if this needs an NNS proposal.

I have removed the second bulletpoint from my proposal per earlier feedback

That’s technically hard to achieve.

Re: my request on a reporting panel - I want greater visibility and data. This was the solution I proposed, I welcome a rewrite that moves it to a place you and your team can support.

Thank you again for taking the time to read and provide an insider’s view of my proposal - I’d love actionable suggestions on how to improve it to make it something we can implement and act on when it (hopefully) passes.

  • Jesse
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