NFTs and #CryptoArt are a carbon dioxide disaster. Pause the whole thing for a month.
People are working on new solutions, but it’s important to stop wasteful activity NOW while those alternatives are being created and battle-tested.
What’s the harm?
One single edition of one single crypto art generally uses “an EU resident’s electricity consumption for 2 weeks”. With more editions, more postings, more transactions (when an NFT is traded) and other factors I’m not sure I have a grasp on, the energy usage and CO2 emissions can go even higher.
Several artists have written about the specific environmental costs associated with cryptoart. Numbers vary, but minting artwork on the blockchain uses somewhere between weeks, months, years, (and in rare instances decades) of an average EU or US citizen’s energy consumption. (You can see the energy usage and emissions of individual NFTs at cryptoart.wtf.)
During unprecedented temperature increases, sea level rise, the total loss of permanent sea ice, widespread species extinction, countless severe weather events, and all the other hallmarks of total climate collapse, this kind of gleeful wastefulness is, and I am not being hyperbolic, a crime against humanity.
How can NFTs be so wasteful?
They are built on Ethereum and more broadly, cryptocurrency - both of which are generally created to be incredibly wasteful. Many of them rely on “proof of work”. Although not inherently wasteful, many proof of work schemes let the “work” be something fundamentally useless, in order to satisfy other requirements (e.g. the work should be easily verifiable).
What are you asking?
Do not post new NFT offerings for one month - until April 2, 2021. I’m not the boss of you, but if you care about the environment and your carbon footprint, you need to be sure that NFTs aren’t the bulk of your carbon emissions.
Alongside this #NFTpause, artists need to collaborate with economists and crypto-math people and check, double check, triple check that the energy usage of this thing isn’t a catastrophe.
What if you’re wrong?
I admit, I’m not an Ethereum expert. But I’m guessing neither are you. Crypto art is so new that we can all agree further study is needed. If there’s even a 1% chance that the math is correct, we must investigate it. If there was a 1% chance of an asteroid hitting Earth, we would follow up on it.
NFTs have supposedly consumed 7,491,798 kWh already. That’s 2,000 years of an EU resident’s electricity consumption. Under the expected value formula, if there is a 1% chance that this is correct, the value of us investigating NFT harms is 2,000 * 0.01 = 20 years of an EU resident’s electricity. If NFTs become more popular, then those 2,000 years could become 200,000 years. We should make sure that this is not the case.
I find it odd that a group with a large financial incentive to underplay NFTs' environmental impact put out a blog that basically boiled down to “nuh-uh” and “we’ll think about that later”. I want more research; they want everyone to shut up and keep minting (and keep profits flowing to them).
If I’m wrong, I looked like a fool trying to help the environment. If you’re wrong, you continued to participate in millions of kilograms of CO2 emissions. I want to stress that nobody is doing this on purpose. An issue was pointed out and we need to investigate it. That’s all.
Are you a shill for alternative NFT marketplaces or technologies?
Absolutely not. I’ve never bought crypto art nor made it. I don’t have a stake in any crypto art company. I haven’t developed any software for NFTs or cryptocurrency. I don’t intend to do any of those things in the future. I also don’t own any cryptocurrency, but I won’t rule out owning some in the future. Not as an investment, but in service of useful work - which I don’t believe Bitcoin or Ethereum version 1 accomplish in light of their environmental impact.
This page is licensed under CC-0 (public domain). Quoted text is not mine - it is here under fair use.