NFTs have changed the landscape of digital art, but what few people know is the impact of these devices on the environment. Like any electronic resource that requires constant access to the Internet and energy, these Non-Fungal Tokens also emit carbon and greenhouse gases into the environment. Accelerating ocean acidification and reviving global warming are some of the problems that the energy consumption of these technologies has in nature.
Crypto-currency mining like Ethereum and Bitcoin (a figure used to buy and sell NFTs) for a year could have higher annual energy consumption than a small country like Argentina, according to a study published by the University of Cambridge in 2021. To better understand how this technology affects the environment, here are five problems in nature and climate with these indistinguishable tokens.
What is NFT? Understand how token technology works
NFTs change the world of digital art but can have a negative impact on the environment – Photo: Disclosure / Getty Images
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1. It releases a lot of carbon into the environment
Any electronic device that requires constant access to the Internet and light emits carbon into the environment. This is because global energy production is still dependent on non-renewable sources, such as coal and natural gas. With NFT, this is no different. In order to mine the cryptocurrencies involved in the transactions of these tokens, it is necessary for computers and powerful machines to operate continuously.
To give you an idea, Ethereum, the main currency used by NFT points of sale, can spend 48 kilowatt-hours per transaction. This is equivalent to the monthly 30-minute power consumption of a 3500W power shower; this value, given that the cryptocurrency market carries out more than a thousand transactions a day, can be worrisome.
In general, to keep the cryptocurrency (and NFT) market running, you need a variety of machines that are constantly connected. The more servers connected to a polluting electrical network, the more damage it can cause to the environment. When we consider the global consumption of cryptocurrencies, which is rising, this exponentially increases the overall CO2 emissions in the world.
NFT mining releases a lot of carbon into the air – Photo: Disclosure / Pexels
2. It involves a high cost of water
More than non-renewable sources, some countries, such as Brazil, have a large part of their energy matrix. This type of source converts the energy in the river stream into kinetic energy, which is caused by the force of a motion. This movement of water drives the hydroelectric turbines, which then energize a generator to generate light.
The problem with this way of producing energy is that the movement of the turbines heats the water, causing part of it to evaporate. In addition, it causes hot water to flow into the ocean, which eliminates marine life in the area, and also causes problems for the fauna and flora near the rivers.
Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are included in this account, requiring a huge computer network that consumes the energy produced by a hydroelectric power plant, when this movement directly drives this water evaporation. Because these servers require a lot of energy, which requires a lot of the plants they produce.
3. Increases the rate of ocean acidification
The pH is a scale from 1 to 14, which is used to check whether some substances are acidic in nature or not. Numbers below seven are considered acidic, while numbers above are considered basic. The process of ocean acidification occurs when seawater begins to show acidic, that is, when the pH level begins to drop.
The problem is that this acidification is not caused by nature. It started with the industrial revolution, when industries began to emit polluting gases into the atmosphere. This is the case with carbon emitted by Internet networks connected to non-renewable energy sources, for example.
Today, cryptocurrency mining promotes a drop in the pH of H2O molecules because the energy used to connect to computer networks is mostly from polluting sources. The carbon emission from mining reaches the air, which dissolves in the oceans, reacts with water, and then drops the pH level significantly until it becomes acidic. This acidity can wipe out the fauna and flora of the most affected areas and, in a chain, affect the entire ecosystem of the planet.
4. Increases energy consumption
Cryptocurrency mining, which is used in NFT transactions, is done to demand an increasing amount of energy. This is because its operation increases its complexity, requiring more and more power from the machines involved.
Mining means registration In Blockchain, a technology that works “a book” of cryptocurrency financial transaction records. These transactions, in turn, are made up of puzzles that are nothing more than mathematical problems. The solution to this problem is done randomly by the computer. So the stronger your machine, the easier it is to fix these problems – and the more mining it creates.
Only after working proof is resolved is it possible for the block record found to be valid in the Blockchain. When this record occurs, the miner is paid for the work. The problem lies in the difficulty of these problems, which increase as they are resolved. The harder it is to record a puzzle, the more time and power (and therefore more energy) is required for computers.
NFTs require cryptocurrencies and puzzles are becoming increasingly difficult – Photo: Disclosure / Unsplash
5. Global warming may increase
Global warming is an environmental phenomenon characterized by a rise in the average temperature of the planet Earth. This is generally the case, but there are some human practices that exacerbate this process, such as the release of polluting gases into the atmosphere.
With carbon emissions from mining cryptocurrencies, the gas rises from the atmosphere and causes a greenhouse effect, which not only contributes to global warming but also increases the acidification of the oceans. CO2 emissions into the air directly stimulate an increase in global warming, leading to a faster increase in the average temperature of the planet.
This process, when done in an unnatural way, has a chain reaction in the global ecosystem. Not only can fires cause the melting of polar ice caps, also the desolation of land and the rise in sea level, which has an impact on the life of animals and plants and other living systems.
Is there a way to make NFTs sustainable?
Sustainable Energy Sources Are a Good Opportunity to Reduce the Impacts of NFT Mining – Photo: Disclosure / Pexels
Although participating companies are testing options – such as Ethereum 2.0 – there is currently no definitive and fully effective method of minimizing and / or eliminating the harms of cryptocurrency mining. However, it is possible to adopt some alternatives that can help reduce the problems caused by these technologies.
The most common and widespread tax for mining in any country is the specific tax on mining energy consumption. Thus, the country’s energy companies would have to issue an additional tax rate to any investor who had large mining-oriented computer networks. Thus, due to the high cost of energy consumption for this specific purpose, the number of mining operations could be reduced.
Another way is to invest in sustainable altcoins, which are cryptocurrencies that use renewable energy sources such as the sun and wind. Examples of this are Litecoin, Dogecoin and Solarcoin. There are also other digital currencies that, although they do not use renewable energy as a source, provide puzzles that have a lesser impact on the environment, as in the case of Ethereum.
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