As more and more decentralized applications (DApps), such as GameFi, DeFi, NFTs, and more, are being developed, heated discussions about the environmental impact of blockchain and cryptocurrency have reignited once more. Especially after China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency mining activities, public debates about blockchain and crypto-related energy consumption rates have reached a climax.
Proof of Work’s environmental impact
Since the birth of Bitcoin, the Proof of Work (PoW) consensus mechanism has always been fundamental to the security of blockchain networks. This consensus is reached through computing power, commonly referred to as hash rate.
Over time as blockchain technology is being adopted by the world, the energy consumption rate of the entire blockchain network has skyrocketed, leading to significant environmental costs. The University of Cambridge estimates that Bitcoin mining consumes about 130 TWh per year, accounting for about 0.1% of the world’s total primary energy consumption.
As far as DApp development is concerned, energy consumption-related environmental issues are mostly derived from Ethereum mining, since Ethereum is a PoW blockchain with the largest ecosystem full of projects in varying sizes. With the recent London hard fork, the transition to Ethereum 2.0-a complete Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchain, will be completed as early as 2022. As a result, the current energy consumption per transaction on Ethereum is about 35 kWh, which is equivalent to the energy consumption of a single person in developing countries for 3 days.
The true cost of DApp transactions
While mass crypto adoption is happening around the world, DApps and their applicability will eventually catch up. New projects such as wealth management applications, lending platforms, decentralized exchanges (DEX), NFT-inspired metaverses, and more, that are gradually taking over social media and our lives are the ultimate proof. If you have been paying attention to what’s happening around you, the crypto community’s passion and loyalty towards decentralized, immutable technology are clearly reflected in the real world.
That is certainly good news for crypto enthusiasts, but for the environment, it’s an entirely different story. Take NFTs for example. Memo Atken, a digital artist and engineer, estimates that the true cost of an NFT is much higher than a typical energy consumption of a transaction on Ethereum (35 kWh). He believes that NFT-related transactions will cost much more because all NFTs have to be minted and exchanged multiple times on the blockchain.
He is certainly correct. In fact, an NFT’s creation and distribution do not only consist of a simple mint and sale process. There will be many subsequent transactions made by collectors and traders, which makes the average carbon footprint of each NFT close to 340kWh (an average of 211 kg of CO2), equivalent to a single person’s energy consumption in a developed country for more than a month.
Why eco-friendly blockchains are favored by developers
In early 2021, several public blockchains underwent considerable ecosystem expansion, such as ThunderCore, Solana, Polkadot, and Binance Smart Chain. These blockchains’ ecosystems are in full bloom, as decentralized projects like DAOs, Oracles, Token Bridges, DeFi protocols, NFT marketplaces, blockchain games, and more, are being deployed consistently. There are many reasons for the expansion of these networks, but one thing they all have in common is that none of them utilize a PoW consensus mechanism (meaning zero physical mining facilities are used). Instead, novel mechanisms, such as PoS, that allow on-chain staking and other models to replace PoW are applied.
Among them, the ThunderCore blockchain uses the state-of-the-art PoS consensus mechanism, PaLa, which not only solves the “scalability trilemma”, but also supports the chain’s entire ecosystem with cheap renewable energy. ThunderCore is an eco-friendly public blockchain, and its CO2 emissions, resulting from on-chain transactions, are reduced by more than 10,000x. For example, its block creation does not require the support of large amounts of energy resources like Bitcoin and Ethereum do. ThunderCore is also EVM compatible, which allows the rapid migration and deployment of Ethereum projects. With low gas fees (<$0.00001), sub-second confirmations, and 4,000+ TPS, ThunderCore has become a platform favored by developers from the world over.
Ema Norton grew up in Chicago. Her mother is a preschool teacher, and her father is a cartoonist. After high school Ema attended college where she majored in early-childhood education and child psychology.
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