Bitcoin mining campaign aims to reduce energy consumption by 99%

‘Change the Code Not the Climate’ says the proposed change would reduce BTC’s environmental impact – but it’s not a simple fix

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 29 March 2022 14:14
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<p>Bitcoin mining consumes enough electricity to power a small country, studies have found</p>

Bitcoin mining consumes enough electricity to power a small country, studies have found

Climate activists have set up a campaign to pressure the cryptocurrency industry into adopting a new form of bitcoin mining that would be less harmful to the environment.

The Change the Code Not the Climate campaign, backed by Greenpeace USA and Environmental Working Group, proposes that bitcoin switches from a ‘proof-of-work’ (PoW) system to a ‘proof-of-stake’ (PoS) mining method that requires far less electricity to operate.

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Recent studies have estimated that bitcoin mining operations around the world consume roughly the same amount of electricity as a small country. This is because the PoW system requires powerful computers to solve complex mathematical puzzles in order to produce new units of bitcoin and validate transactions on its network.

By contrast, a PoS protocol uses a process to randomly select an existing stakeholder in the cryptocurrency in order to validate the network and mint new units.

Switching to a PoS system would cut bitcoin’s energy use by 99.9 per cent, according to the environmental consortium, however it would require a major change to bitcoin’s underlying code.

Such an upheaval would require consensus among the bitcoin community, which has typically been difficult to achieve due to its decentralised nature and the existence of competing interests within it. Disagreements to previous changes to bitcoin’s code have led to the cryptocurrency being forked into separate branches, spawning brand new digital currencies like bitcoin cash.

“We know bitcoin stakeholders are incentivised not to change,” the Change the Code Not the Climate manifesto acknowledged.

“Changing bitcoin would render a whole lot of expensive infrastructure worthless, meaning bitcoin stakeholders will need to walk away from sunk costs – or find other creative solutions.

“We know the crypto community is overwhelmingly motivated by a sense of progress, fairness, and good intentions. Many advocates are vocal about addressing climate change. The dream of so many early crypto innovators is within reach — but only if the industry gets serious about crypto that runs on low energy.”

Other leading cryptocurrencies already operate using PoS, such as Cardano (ADA), however these were created using the protocol rather than switching to it from PoW.

The Change the Code Not the Climate group called on Tesla boss Elon Musk, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and other prominent voices within the crypto community in order to help facilitate the shift.

Both have previously spoken about bitcoin’s environmental impact, though have pointed to other methods of reducing it, such as switching to renewable energy sources.

One initiative aimed at improving transparency and promoting renewable sources is the Bitcoin Mining Council, which formed after Mr Musk spoke with US crypto miners.

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