The mining of bitcoin, and many other cryptocurrencies, has such a high energy consumption (in 2019 it exceeded that of Switzerland) that it has become a worrying environmental problem. Faced with this situation, a group of environmental organizations proposes change the code of the main cryptocurrency in the world to make it more energy efficient.
According to The Guardian, the Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace and several groups have launched a campaign called “Code Not the Climate” (Change the code, not the climate). The organizations, taking as an example the evolution of the ethereum mining mechanism, ensure that “a change in the software code could reduce the energy use of bitcoin by 99%”.
Change the code to reduce carbon footprint
Campaign organizers say that, following China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency mining, the United States is leading in this field, and what is happening is not necessarily good. Coal plants that were idled or were to be closed are being reactivated, according to Code Not the Climate member Michael Brune.
The former CEO of the Sierra Club also said that gas plants, which in many cases were becoming less economically competitive, are also turning to bitcoin mining.” As a result, according to the campaign, renewable energy operations are not are enough and the only way to achieve climate goals is by changing the bitcoin code.
Over the last few years we have seen how some miners have begun to look for cheap and CO2-free alternatives, even El Salvador has started mining using the energy of volcanoes, but the problem of bitcoin, according to Chris Larsen, founder of the project of Ripple payments and a member of the environmental group is that naturally the model leads “to the maximum use of energy”.
Bitcoin currently uses a mechanism known as Proof of Work (PoW), which is a distributed consensus protocol in which the parts of a network perform complex computational operationsabove all, to confirm transactions and obtain new blocks for the network, which usually consumes a large amount of electrical energy.
Let us remember that the interest of many to enter the world of cryptocurrency mining is the rewards. These use the hardware of their GPUs, although there are also ASICs, to process complex mathematical problems. And it is a real competition, because the first to solve the “puzzle” receives cryptocurrencies as a reward.
Ethereum, for its part, has begun a transition path towards a mechanism known as Proof of Stake (PoS). The new code promises to reduce energy consumption by 99% by implementing an incentive system that, in general terms, rewards those who become validators of the system.
Environmental organizations take what ethereum is doing as a model to follow and assure that the same result could be achieved with bitcoin, but warn that “stakeholders have incentives not to change” because they would leave a large amount of valuable infrastructure unused, for what the challenge is even greater.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism