Climate groups say change in coding could reduce bitcoin power consumption by 99% | Bitcoin

Bitcoin mining already uses as much energy as Sweden, according to some reports, and its booming popularity is energizing failed fossil fuel enterprises in the United States. But all of that can change with a simple switch in the way it’s coded, according to a campaign launched on Tuesday.

The campaign, called Change the Code, Not the Climate, and coordinated by the Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace USA and several groups fighting bitcoin mining facilities in their communities, calls for bitcoin to change the way bitcoin is mined in order to tackle its huge carbon footprint.

The software code that Bitcoin uses – known as “Proof of Work” – requires the use of huge computer arrays to verify and secure transactions. Proof of Work is a way to verify that a miner has solved the very complex cryptographic puzzles needed to be added to the Bitcoin ledger.

Rival cryptocurrency Ethereum is switching to another system – “Proof of Stake” – which it believes will reduce its energy use by 99%. In the Proof of Stake form, miners pledge their coins to verify transactions; Adding inaccurate information leads to penalties.

As the value and use of cryptocurrencies rise, campaign organizers argue that bitcoin should follow suit or find another, less energy-intensive, method. “And this is a big problem. Partly because of where the industry is now but also because of our concerns about its growth,” said Michael Brun, campaign manager and former CEO of Sierra Club.

The US now leads the world in cryptocurrency mining after China cracked down on mining and trading last May.

“Coal plants that were dormant or scheduled to close are now being revived and dedicated solely to bitcoin mining. Gas plants, which were in many cases increasingly economically uncompetitive, are now being dedicated to bitcoin mining. We are seeing this all over the world,” said Brun. country”.

“It’s especially painful to see this in the electricity sector because that’s exactly where the United States has made the most progress in the past decade,” Brown added. “There is no way we can achieve our climate goals if we are working to revive fossil fuel stations.

Some bitcoin miners have recently started running their operations using renewable energy from wind and solar energy. But Brune said that while such moves were “obviously well-intentioned,” adding “some small wind or solar powering some high-profile mining operations” would not do enough to address the environmental cost. “Fossil fuel growth is outstripping renewable growth in bitcoin mining and that is the primary challenge,” Brun said.

Chris Larsen, founder and CEO of cryptocurrency firm Ripple and climate activist said that without changing the code, the fundamental problem will remain that the Bitcoin code “spurs maximum energy use.” “The moment there is a chance to go into something sloppy, which you see, it will happen.”

He said one of the “terrifying scenarios” is that the world reaches a renewable future in China, the United States and the European Union, but that fossil fuel-rich countries are turning to bitcoin mining to keep their operations running.

“Imagine the Saudis sitting on all that oil, which costs about a cent per kilowatt-hour — no renewable energy can match that,” Larsen said. “Bitcoin mining could be an endless drive for fossil fuel monetization. That would be a nightmare.”

The campaign kicks off with digital ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Marketwatch, Politico, Facebook and other publications. Regulators are also taking legal action against proposed mining sites and using their large memberships to push the biggest bitcoin investors and influencers to advocate for the code change. “In this world, with all these smart people, there has to be a better solution,” Larsen said.

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