Ethereum’s energy-efficient ‘merge’ leaves bitcoin as lone cryptocurrency climate polluter
New $1M ad campaign, pressure on bitcoin investors to meet or beat ethereum’s standard
WASHINGTON – As ethereum, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency, dramatically cuts its climate pollution, environmental groups have intensified pressure on bitcoin to meet or beat ethereum’s environmental performance. Ethereum’s long-awaited “merge” to a proof of stake consensus mechanism uses 99.95 percent less energy, leaving bitcoin as the largest cryptocurrency using the outmoded high-energy proof of work consensus mechanism.
The “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign will now intensify its efforts with $1 million in new online advertisements, and Greenpeace launched a petition calling on Fidelity Investments to push bitcoin to follow ethereum’s lead in switching to an energy-saving protocol that dramatically reduces the cryptocurrency’s contribution to the climate crisis.
“With fires raging around the world and historic floods destroying lives and livelihoods, state and federal leaders and corporate executives are racing to decarbonize as quickly as possible. Ethereum has shown it’s possible to switch to an energy-efficient protocol with far less climate, air and water pollution. Other cryptocurrency protocols have operated on efficient consensus mechanisms for years. Bitcoin has become the outlier, defiantly refusing to accept its climate responsibility,” said Michael Brune, director of the “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign.
The “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign launched in March to advocate for a bitcoin code change that would throttle back the enormous electricity consumption of its miners. Prior to the campaign launch, there was little national attention to bitcoin’s environmental, social and economic impacts, including ratepayers’ subsidizing miners to pause operations to prevent grid blackouts, by federal and state policy makers.
The landscape is now shifting. Campaign representatives are in active discussions with key members of Congress and the Biden administration. Lawmakers are considering legislation, including mining moratoriums, that would increase transparency about mining operation locations, sources of energy used, and emissions for each operation. President Biden signed an executive order in March that highlighted the connection between cryptocurrency mining and the climate crisis.
The campaign is urging the biggest corporate partners and institutional investors – Fidelity Investments, PayPal and Jack Dorsey’s Block, among others – to push bitcoin to move away from a high-energy proof of work protocol. The ethereum merge puts more pressure on these investors to use their financial clout for the climate and to help local communities suffering from bitcoin mining operations.
Quote from Ken Cook, president, Environmental Working Group
“Ethereum has proven it’s possible to take the leap and change its protocol to a less electricity-intensive method by switching to proof of stake and dramatically lowering its energy use and the greenhouse gas pollution associated with dirty protocols like proof of work. It’s time bitcoin and its biggest investors take similar steps to reduce its heavy reliance on dirty electric grids and cheap fossil fuel energy sources – or risk being the cryptocurrency of the past.”
Quote from Rolf Skar, special project manager, Greenpeace USA
“We’re in a climate crisis and everyone has a responsibility to act. With ethereum’s move to an energy-efficient protocol, it’s time for bitcoin to change. Companies promoting and profiting from bitcoin, like Fidelity Investments, BlackRock, Paypal and Block, have a responsibility to be a part of building a better, climate friendly bitcoin.”
Quote from Lane Boldman, executive director, Kentucky Conservation Committee
“If ethereum can change its code to cut air pollution and climate disruption, why can’t bitcoin? Kentuckians in coal mining communities have suffered greatly in recent weeks from deadly floods, intensified by unreclaimed and abandoned mineland from fossil fuel extraction, and have been dealing with the impacts for more than a century while the wealth goes elsewhere. It’s unacceptable that a supposedly ‘innovative’ technology like bitcoin is unnecessarily extending the life of fossil fuels through this wasteful process that impacts our air and our land.”
Quote from Robert Altenburg, senior director for energy and climate, PennFuture
“We applaud ethereum’s move to a much more efficient validation system. Here in Pennsylvania where bitcoin largely relies on burning coal waste, we have experienced the worst that bitcoin has to offer. Cryptominers don’t pay the very real costs of public health and environmental damage caused by the air pollution they create –instead the vulnerable communities near these operations pay the price. Worse still, bitcoin miners are using these old, polluting coal plants to power their operations because we – the taxpayers and ratepayers – are heavily subsidizing them.”
About Change the Code, Not the Climate
Change the Code, Not the Climate is a campaign launched by the Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace USA, and several local organizations to push bitcoin, its miners and investors to support a change in software code that can shed the intensive use of and reliance on dirty sources of electricity.