Bitcoin in the crosshairs: campaign starts to reduce the energy consumption of virtual coins
“Change the code. Not the climate” wants to cut the energy consumption of Bitcoin
(Sustainabilityenvironment.com) – Cut the energy consumption of bitcoin virtual currencies? It can be done, just to change the algorithm on which they are based mining operations. So all cryptocurrencies should do it. Starting with Bitcoin. Which has a huge carbon footprint. The campaign “Change the code. Not the climate” was coordinated by the Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace USA and other environmental NGOs.
“Bitcoin uses an outdated technology called proof-of-work to validate transactions,” the campaign manifesto reads. “This proof-of-work method, at least as it currently works, uses huge amounts of energy, and is therefore a huge source of climate pollution. As the price of Bitcoin increases, so does its energy use.”
In recent years, the energy consumption of virtual currencies has become a major climate issue. The order of magnitude of the CO2 footprint of cryptocurrencies is the same as that of medium-sized states. Bitcoin is the world’s most popular virtual currency and has an energy consumption that was equivalent to New Zealand’s annual energy consumption as of January 2022.
It is also unresponsive on the climate front. Rival virtual currencies have already changed their approach. Abandoning proof-of-work technology, cryptocurrencies like Ethereum now use a different, lighter technology called proof-of-stake. How much does the technology switch weigh? Bitcoin was emitting 57 Mt CO2 per year at the end of 2021, twice as much as Ethereum. The electricity consumption per single transaction shows the gulf between the two protocols: Bitcoins uses 707 kWh, 11 times more than Ethereum.
“We know that a basic change in software code would reduce Bitcoin’s energy use by 99.9%,” continues the campaign manifesto to slash the energy consumption of virtual coins. “If just 30 people – the key miners, exchanges and core developers who build and contribute to Bitcoin’s code – agreed to reinvent proof-of-work mining or switch to a low-energy protocol, Bitcoin would stop polluting the planet. So why isn’t Bitcoin changing its code?“