Robert Steinadler, 8 months ago

Is Bitcoin green enough and is this even a legitimate question?

Chris Larsen and Greenpeace have teamed up to start a campaign under the title “change the code, not the climate”. Mining consumes a lot of energy. All that it takes is basically hardware and electricity to participating. Many critics have raised concerns in the past that this is not sustainable since consumption will rise over time. Still, Bitcoin is the number one cryptocurrency not only by market cap but also by the size of the community that puts its trust in BTC.

Do we need to make Bitcoin green? And how could such a task be accomplished?

Sweden is not the point, Chris

On its website, the campaign compares the energy consumption of the Bitcoin network to the consumption of Sweden. This isn’t new. Sometimes it’s Sweden, sometimes it’s the Netherlands, and sometimes Argentina. It not only begs the question if critics are able to identify the consumption both of Bitcoin and several countries but also if your country means business if its energy consumption has never been compared to that of Bitcoin. Besides, the study that is cited by the website also points out that comparing Bitcoin’s consumption with that of a country can be very misleading.

The problem isn’t the consumption. Consumption is a feature. Bitcoin is open, permissionless, and censorship-resistant because nobody can fake proof of work. Proof of stake has been around for a while but it remains to be seen if it offers the same value and security.

Ethereum is switching consensus mechanism this year, probably during this summer. It will be the first sizeable blockchain that is moving from one consensus model to another. Even if everything is going to work out fine, proof of stake is not making the same value proposition as proof of work does. But for the sake of Chris and Greenpeace let’s take a look at how they would like to accomplish the same task for Bitcoin.

All it takes is 30 people

According to the website all comes down to around 30 people who are core maintainers, miners, or hold other positions of power within the industry. It is true that influential people could sit down with each other to find a solution and try to convince the Bitcoin community. But that’s exactly the point here. Bitcoin doesn’t work in a top-down model.

It would require the majority of nodes to accept such a proposal and it is highly likely that this would end up in a hard fork splitting the network. Why would you consent to a drastic change that would destroy the core value of Bitcoin? So, not only is this a wrong statement about who is in charge, but it also ignores what most people acknowledge as one of the most important features of Bitcoin.

But what about the environment?

Of course, everybody has an obligation to preserve our planet. The Bitcoin industry isn’t very different from other branches. What about the steel industry or mobile communication? What about you watching Netflix while riding on a train back home from work? All these things are not necessary and consume a lot of energy.

The solution is not to point fingers and find something or somebody to blame. It is imperative that mankind is opting for sustainable and clean energy sources. Bitcoin can even support that mission by creating additional income for operators of renewable energy sources, as this example from Costa Rica shows.

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