Environmental Impacts Caused by Blockchain

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It’s well documented that the United States has renewed commitment to playing a fundamental role in addressing global climate change beginning with reducing greenhouse emissions and embracing sustainable industries and technologies in forthcoming policies. The substantial shift in policymaking is set to encourage the implementation and establishment of stringent solutions.  The United States re-emergence into the climate change conversation is indicative of the gravity of the situation and the drastic decisions counties would have to make to meet the demands of the environmental policies set out by international bodies as part of the Paris Climate Agreement which has the full authority of a legally binding international treaty.

At the centre of this political and economic restructuring is the growing impact of innovative technologies in accordance with the global initiative for a sustainable environment. You would anticipate that innovations ought to be constructive towards building infrastructure that would encourage sustainability. Therefore, it is crucial to study the viability of blockchain technology from the critical lenses of an environmentalist.

Blockchain is proving to be one of most revered technologies in the last decade, largely due to the increasingly common adoption of digital assets. The possibility of enabling a new generation of monetary services has propelled the technology in to its initiative and expansive period. Nevertheless, recently the most popular blockchain technology Bitcoin (BTC) has habitually received criticism regarding its role in climate change.

Bitcoins uses a procedure called mining; this system is used to mint new Bitcoins and uphold the network. This requires miners to solve extremely complex problems with sophisticated computing systems to create new blocks and receive newly minted coins as a reward. The protocol is irrefutably secure as a result of this network as the miners play a vital role in securing the network against manipulations and errors.

Even though this approach is commendable, it is not strictly eco-friendly. The total amount of energy required to maintain the network has caused concern amongst environmentalist who have vocalised their concerns. Bitcoins global mining operations carbon footprint is comparable to that of New Zealand. Researchers have revealed another telling factor of PoW’s environmental unfriendliness came to light in 2019 with the discovery that Bitcoin mining accounted for 0.2% of global electricity consumption.

Alternatively, proof-of-weight assesses the resources or reputation of participants when selecting a validator while proof-of-burn evaluates the capacity of the network members to burn coins – sending coins to an irredeemable address. These models steer clear from the energy intense approach of PoW instead they handpick validators subject to certain criteria that both support the network and maintains its healthy state.

The viability of blockchain technology and its environmental sustainability are entrenched with one another. The development of a variety of consensus mechanisms is a clear indication that the intentional attempts to curb the excesses of blockchain energy consumption are already making a sizeable impact.