In this blog, we shall discuss how blockchain technology affects climate change and what measures are being taken to reverse the effects of this change.
Mining in PoW consensus model and the related environmental concerns
We have already discussed the principle and working of the PoW (Proof of Work) consensus model in our previous blogs. In such protocols, mining is done by solving the answer to a complex mathematical problem via the trial and error method. This requires miners to use computers with very high computation power. To keep these computers running huge amounts of electricity is needed.
In protocols such as Bitcoin, the number of the total Bitcoins that can be mined is fixed. With each Bitcoin that is mined, the difficulty to mine the next Bitcoin increases. Hence, even greater computation is required for the process. As a result, higher are the energy needs.
A single Bitcoin transaction can take up to 1,544 kWh of energy to complete. Also, big crypto mining firms use large numbers of high GPU computers running continuously. Electricity is also required to cool the rigs because of the extensive heating. Apart from this, the computers need to be updated regularly to increase their computation capacity. As a result, almost 290 grams of electronic waste is generated per Bitcoin transaction.
Methods to tackle the problems of mining
Using renewable sources of energy for mining purposes is a way to reduce the effects of maintaining the blockchains. The risks can be reduced further by using a consensus model other than the Proof of Work.
The most common answer to solving the issues of mining in the PoW model is to use an alternative, the PoS (Proof of Stake) model. As discussed in our previous blogs, unlike the PoW model, the PoS model does not require complex computers. Mining (minting) in the PoS model depends on the percentage of the stake of the validators in the network. Hence this model requires much less energy to operate.
Nowadays, blockchains are using various newer consensus models like Proof of Capacity, Proof of Activity, and Proof of Burn to name a few. These models do not require huge amounts of energy to run the blockchains efficiently.
Saving the environment using Blockchains
Blockchain technology can be used in a variety of ways to reduce the effects of climate change and protect the environment.
A blockchain-based energy system could eliminate the need of storing and transmitting power over large distances. Surplus energy can be efficiently transferred to places with deficit energy in a fast and economic manner. Also, a blockchain-based system could allow everyone to directly invest in any renewable energy infrastructure at a local or global level.
A recycling program on the blockchain could achieve greater success if they incentivize the participants with cryptocurrency tokens in exchange for depositing recyclables like plastic or glass containers. Also, the transparency of the blockchain would be very helpful to keep track of the impact and progress of the program.
Projects based on the blockchain could allow the users to make well-informed decisions while choosing various products and services to make sure they have an environmentally friendly origin.
Bitcoin maximalists think that energy consumption is a minimal price for a decentralized financial system. Opting for other blockchains with the PoS model raises a security concern for many crypto heads.
With the image of blockchain and the environment having various shades of gray, it would be very interesting to see how both of them would interact to create a sustainable future.