COP26: Why Discussion about Climate Change Must Involve the EOS Blockchain

Third generation blockchains such as EOS are demonstrating that Bitcoin’s vast energy consumption needn’t be the norm for the blockchain.

Credit: Bywire News, Canva
Credit: Bywire News, Canva
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LONDON (Bywire News) - If you’re listening to the comments coming from the British Prime Minister about COP26 you could be forgiven for thinking the world is in even more trouble than we thought. We are, he says, 5-1 down against climate change at half time, but never fear, we have a bomb disposal team on site. If you hear that at a football match, you’ll want to head for the exits sharpish.

What is clear is that the fight against climate change is not going well. COP26 has seen some agreements and a lot of mutual back slapping, but there are some glaring omissions without which fighting climate change will be even more difficult.

One of these is the blockchain.

Blockchain technologies often get overlooked in discussions such as this – partly because most of the key decision makers don’t fully understand what it is. But when it comes to climate change it’s incredibly important because the dominant blockchain on the market, Bitcoin, is also the most toxic to the environment.

According to a study from Cambridge University, mining Bitcoin generates as much carbon as the entire country of Argentina. As it grows in popularity that impact is growing. Crypto miners have been blamed for energy outages in Iran. China’s recent crackdown on some cryptocurrencies stems as much from their crackdown on environmentally unfriendly industries as much about fears about its financial stability.

This is a massive problem not just for Bitcoin, but the entire blockchain community. To most people, Bitcoin is the blockchain. If it is tarred with the brush of being carbon expensive so is everyone else. It’s already had an impact. Elon Musk’s decision to suspend accepting Bitcoins for Tesla stemmed from concerns about its sustainability. His message was clear – Bitcoin had to get its act together to minimise its carbon footprint.

A greener vision

What he and other miss, though, is that a different – and much greener vision of the blockchain – is already here. Bitcoin’s perennial understudy, Ethereum, has a fraction of Bitcoin’s energy consumption, but this is just the beginning. The rise of third generation blockchains slashed carbon emissions even more.

EOS, for example, already claims to be the world’s first carbon neutral blockchain. And it probably is.

The secret lies in how the blockchain is produced. Both Bitcoin and Ethereum rely on a proof of work model to maintain its shared ledger and make new blocks. This consumes an enormous amount of computing power which grows worse as activity grows.

Third generation blockchains work on proof of stake in which work is delegated to a body of 21 block producers, nodes who are rewarded for maintaining the network but who can be substituted out through a voting process. This, according to data provided by the EOSIO Authority, is 66,454 more efficient than Bitcoin and 17,236 faster than Ethereum. It uses just 0.1% of the energy used by Bitcoin. Furthermore, they’ve also been working with Climate Care to offset those emissions and now EOS can law claim to the title of the world’s first carbon neutral blockchain producer.

In a statement Climate Care said: “We’re delighted that EOS Authority has recognized the climate impacts of the technology sector and taken this positive step forward to compensate for their emissions. We hope that their actions will encourage others in the sector to follow their lead.”

EOS is not alone. A host of alternative cryptocurrencies are springing up demonstrating a greener alternative to Bitcoin. Some, like Cardano, use a similar proof of stake model to EOS. Run by one of Ethereum’s co-founders, Charles Hoskinson, it claims to consume just six gigawatt hours of electricity.

Others, such as Solar Coin, actively set out to actively encourage positive behaviour. It generates one solar coin for every GWH generated from solar energy.

EcoMatcher, meanwhile, uses the EOSIO blockchain to help corporations offset their carbon footprints with reforestation efforts. The company, which received an EOS VC grant, tracks companies’ efforts on EOSIO via their TreeChain.

As their CEO Bas Fransen explains their goal is to “to plant a billion trees by 2023.” TreeChain will give corporations the transparency they need with detailed records of every tree the company plants. EOS’s speed, simplicity and configurability – as well as its low carbon footprint – made it the perfect candidate for their purposes. 

The BlockChain for Climate Foundation, meanwhile, used COP26 to launch their BITMO platform which will allow signatories to the Paris Climate Accord to issue carbon exchange credits as non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. The platform will, they say, help countries achieve Article 6 of the Paris Climate Accords with a clear and verifiable carbon trading market on the blockchain.

“We cheer the COP26 negotiators working hard to finalize agreement on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement,” said Joseph Pallant – Climate Innovation Director, Ecotrust Canada, and Founder, Blockchain for Climate Foundation. “The BITMO Platform stands by to enable issuance and exchange of ITMOs for National Parties seeking to kick off this crucial, new, international carbon market without delay.”

There is one fly in the ointment. Bitcoin retains a dominant position in cryptocurrencies. It is both the biggest and the dirtiest cryptocurrency on the market and, the more it grows, the more damage it inflicts on the environment. To date it, the only way it has been involved in the discussion of climate change is as a problem rather than a solution.

The second biggest name, Ethereum, is planning to transition to the cleaner proof of stake model in 2022. This will reduce its impact, but it is still playing catchup. As the third generation blockchains show, a future involving a clean, carbon neutral blockchain, is already here. It’s one which will have to be embraced if the world is to have any hope of keeping 1.5°C alive, and that future is EOS.


(Writing by Tom Cropper, editing by Michael O’Sullivan)

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