Campaigners call for bitcoin miners to drop ‘proof of work’ to reduce their excessive use of energy

Haobtc’s site manager checks mining equipment inside a bitcoin mine. Paul Ratje/For The Washington Post via Getty Image

  • Greenpeace and others have launched a campaign to encourage bitcoin miners to change how new coins are created.
  • Bitcoin uses a “proof-of-work” mining process that uses excessive amounts of energy, campaigners said on Tuesday.
  • Bitcoin rival ethereum has hit delays in its own switch to proof-of-stake from a proof-of-work process.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Greenpeace and other climate groups launched a campaign on Tuesday to tackle the excessive energy use in bitcoin mining by encouraging a change in how new coins are created.

The goal of the “Change the Code Not The Climate” campaign is to remake the code underpinning bitcoin mining, moving it away from a proof-of-work process or reinventing this method to make it less energy intensive.

“Bitcoin uses an outdated technology called proof-of-work to validate transactions. This proof-of-work method, at least as it currently operates, uses massive amounts of energy, and thus is a huge source of climate pollution,” campaigners said in a statement.

They believe that as bitcoin’s price rises, so too will the amount of energy consumed, as the two are intrinsically linked at present.

Chris Larsen, the co-founder of Ripple, has pledged $5 million to finance the campaign. Meanwhile, climate activist groups including Greenpeace USA and the Environmental Working Group will coordinate the effort with local organisations.

China banned crypto mining in May, and the bulk of the world’s crypto mining now takes place in the US, where fossil fuels are used to power the industry.

Proof-of-work requires high-powered computers to compete to solve puzzles in order to create new coins, and that competition can result in excessive energy use. The campaign argues that a simple code change could potentially reduce bitcoin’s energy use by 99.9%.

“If only 30 people — the key miners, exchanges, and core developers who build and contribute to bitcoin’s code — agreed to reinvent proof-of-work mining or move to a low-energy protocol, bitcoin would stop polling the planet,” campaigners said.

Ripple’s Larsen said on Twitter he is supporting the campaign because the time for change is now, as institutional investors flood into the crypto market.

But moving to proof-of-stake from a proof-of-work process is not easy, going by the example of ethereum. Bitcoin’s closest rival has been battling with the shift, but has been hit with delays.

While Vitalik Buterin announced last month that the merge — which will see ethereum move to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism — is only months away, it has been seven years in the making.

Change the Code Note the Climate faces a tough road in its mission to address some of the climate issues surrounding bitcoin and proof-of-work mining, not least the fact that bitcoin mining is a $15 billion dollar industry, according to The Block Research.

The organis proposeders plan to take legal action against mining sites, and to lobby bitcoin proponents to call for a code change.

“In this world, with all these smart people, there has got to be a better solution,” Larsen said.

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