With the craze for non-fungible coins taking off at the start of the year, many climate-conscious artists have expressed their disapproval of Ethereum’s power consumption. In May, Elon Musk derailed Bitcoin (BTC), citing the energy consumed by Bitcoin as a reason Tesla withdrew its plans to accept BTC as payment for its electric cars.
These two events sparked a wave of controversy from within and outside the blockchain community. In particular, the arguments tend to focus on two areas: Bitcoin’s energy consumption and dependence on climate-damaging fossil fuels versus renewables, and secondly, the benefits of one blockchain platform over another — a general focus on consensus models and the promotion of proof-of-stake as a greener option.
Each debate is filled with arguments for both sides. If the IPCC is right, the need for drastic action to help reverse some of the damage cannot be overstated. To do this, the focus should be on the positive applications of blockchain.
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Leverage the strengths of the blockchain
One important way in which the impact of blockchain is already significant is in its ability to collect large amounts of otherwise wasted energy – which is pooled and re-ignited for greater use. Crowdsourcing of wasted energy is in line with the principles of a circular economy, which eliminates the culture of dispensation, to recycle available resources as much as possible. And computing power is one example.
Whether it’s on a personal laptop or a commercial server out of business hours, there’s a huge amount of idle computing power wasted on devices, especially when they’re not in use. At the same time, there is a huge demand for computing power that is met by companies like Amazon Web Services, which are constantly building new data centers to meet this need.
Related: No, Musk, don’t blame bitcoin for dirty energy – the problem lies deeper
Blockchain networks, such as Cudos’ decentralized cloud computing platform, redirect and make better use of spare computing power from idle computers, reducing waste in the process. Other networks like Filecoin or Bluzelle focus on storage services, but the principle remains the same.
Decentralize the power grid
Other projects are using this concept to decentralize power grids. Brooklyn Microgrid is a very local initiative that allows “consumers” (producers and consumers) of solar energy to sell their surplus by turning it into a microgrid where other participants can buy it. It’s the kind of “act local, think global” project that proves that anything is possible if you’re willing to start from scratch.
In Vienna, the government previously funded an initiative that allows citizens to earn token rewards for identifying sources of thermal waste that can be recycled into the energy grid. A slightly different variation on the same decentralized theme, but using the same principles of leveraging blockchain technology for the greater good.
Trusted green credentials
Blockchain technology also plays an essential role in bringing transparency and accountability to governments and businesses for their role in combating climate change. Transparency in ESG matters is currently high on the agenda of CFOs following the introduction of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation earlier this year. In its broadest terms, the regulation obliges banks and financial institutions to rank their investment products according to their green credentials.
Using the blockchain to store and verify this information will increase visibility and increase the level of trust investors can place in products that hold ESG credentials. It has become easier to envision a future where consumers and organizations can make choices based on the ESG algorithmic rating of any type of organization on the blockchain.
Related: How will blockchain technology help fight climate change? Experts answer
Being the “least bad” blockchain platform will not suffice, and society is far from helpless when it comes to the climate emergency. It has powerful technology at its disposal, along with some of the world’s best, brightest and most innovative thought leaders.
It is clear that blockchain technology can be applied to a myriad of positive use cases that give the green cause more than it takes away. In doing so, blockchain technology makes a stronger argument for its applications in protecting the environment than against it.
The opinions, ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Matt Hawkins He is the founder and CEO of Cudo Ventures, a global provider of cloud computing and monetization software, and Cudos, a decentralized cloud computing network that bridges the gap between cloud and blockchain by recycling the world’s idle computing power. Previously he founded C4L in 2000, which was acquired in 2016 and has been one of the UK’s fastest growing data center internet service providers, supporting around 1% of the UK’s internet infrastructure, and has been the winner of several fast-growing awards, including That: The Sunday Times Tech Track 100, Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50 and Technology Fast 500 EMEA, and many more.