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Could new code make Bitcoin eco-friendly?

Words by Smiley Team

Launched during the 2008 financial crisis, Bitcoin was created in a time of deep distrust of banks. It aimed to put monetary control in the hands of ordinary people.

But today, using up more electricity than the whole of Sweden, it’s questionable whether the cryptocurrency remains a force for good. Thankfully though, a new campaign hopes to change that.

To align Bitcoin with environmental needs, Greenpeace US and the Environmental Working Group are calling on Bitcoiners to make a major change to their protocol. The Change The Code campaign launched with $5 million in funds from the co-founder of cryptocurrency company Ripple Labs Inc. 

Using statistics from the University of Cambridge the campaign was able to calculate the total electricity use of Bitcoin, which they discovered was larger than Sweden’s usage. But they believe they could cut this by 99% if users make some simple adjustments to the setup.

Michael Brune, director of environmental NGO the Sierra Club, told E&E News: “This is increasing carbon pollution at a time when we need to be racing to decarbonize the entire economy."

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Bitcoin’s rising energy usage is largely thanks to the current operating system called Proof-of-Work. This requires warehouses of computers set up to solve problems and compete for Bitcoin rewards. This is resulting in a growing demand for electricity and a dependence on fossil fuels.

Michael later tweeted: “Bitcoin miners want to avoid paying energy fees in Texas so they can burn more methane gas. Much better idea is to change the code and reduce energy use altogether!”

Campaign groups hope to replace Proof-of-Work with an alternative model called Proof-of-Stake, in which Bitcoiners are selected at random for rewards, eliminating the need for energy-consuming warehouses of computers to compete for Bitcoin.

Due to Bitcoin’s open-source design, it’s not difficult at all to make adjustments to the code. However, without a central authority, the challenge will be to convince enough Bitcoiners to agree to the change.

To bolster their demands, campaigners hope to convince high-profile tech entrepreneurs to support their call to adopt the greener code.

Solutions platform We Don’t Have time messaged Elon Musk: “Help us change the code for #Bitcoin and save the climate! You can make this happen! If you create the standard everyone else will follow. All your businesses can trade with Bitcoin without destroying the plant.”

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: To encourage more Bitcoiners to support Change The Code, add your name to the petition.

DONATE: Support other campaigns to encourage global power holders to make decisions with the planet and people in mind. Donate to Greenpeace.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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