Greenpeace Wants Musk, Dorsey to “Clean Up Bitcoin”

Key Takeaways

Greenpeace and other climate activists have launched a campaign called “Change the Code, Not the Climate” to criticize Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism.
The campaign urges Bitcoin to ditch Proof-of-Work for Proof-of-Stake to reduce its energy consumption, but it’s marred by a number of dubious claims.
It calls on the likes of Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and Goldman Sachs to help “Clean Up Bitcoin.”

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Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen contributed $5 million to the campaign. 

Greenpeace Says “Clean Up Bitcoin” 

Greenpeace thinks the cryptocurrency community needs to “Clean Up Bitcoin.”

The environmental campaigning organization has launched a new initiative called “Change the Code, Not the Climate” alongside a host of other climate activists in a bid to convince the Bitcoin community to move the network away from its Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism. Per a Bloomberg report, Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen has also made a $5 million contribution to the campaign. 

The campaign’s website presents a number of claims related to Bitcoin to suggest that the network has become a major contributor to the climate crisis. It details how Bitcoin mining uses more energy than Sweden per a Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance study, and also links to a long-debunked report that claims Bitcoin emissions could push global warming above 2 degrees Celsius. 

The website also features several other questionable claims in a bid to present the case that Bitcoin harms the environment. It says that the top crypto “is resurrecting fossil fuels” with a link to a 2021 article about a mining company buying power plants. It adds that Bitcoin is “a huge source of climate pollution” and claims that its energy use increases as its market price does, which isn’t true (energy use simply increases as the Bitcoin network’s hashrate does). 

Campaign Urges Bitcoin to Scrap Proof-of-Work 

The campaign argues in favor of Proof-of-Stake over Proof-of-Work and makes specific reference to Ethereum, which is slated to adopt the more energy-efficient consensus mechanism sometime this year. It says that Proof-of-Stake is “a better model” and notes how Bitcoin could reduce its energy consumption by 99.9% by making the same switch. 

It also references Bitcoin miners, saying that they are “incentivized not to change” because a move away from Proof-of-Work would render their infrastructure useless. It then targets a number of prominent figures who it says have influence over the Bitcoin community. 

“Leaders like Elon Musk of Tesla, Jack Dorsey of Block, and Abby Johnson of Fidelity have vested interests in Bitcoin—and the power to affect change,” the website reads (the campaign has also created three widgets that specifically target Musk, Dorsey, and Johnson with a message to “change the code.”) It also lists Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, and PayPal as organizations that “have a responsibility to Clean Up Bitcoin.” 

Musk has been particularly vocal about Bitcoin’s environmental impact in the past. Last year, he caused a stir when he announced that Tesla had stopped receiving Bitcoin payments owing to environmental concerns. Nonetheless, Tesla still holds Bitcoin on its balance sheet, and Musk has said that he “won’t sell” his personal allocation alongside Ethereum and Dogecoin. 

Bitcoin’s energy use has become a heated topic as cryptocurrency has increasingly attracted mainstream attention. Its detractors frequently point to the environmental impact of mining to criticize crypto as an asset class (NFTs have also taken a huge amount of flak as the technology has exploded). Bitcoin fans, meanwhile, say that the traditional finance system is significantly more harmful to the environment. A 2021 report from Galaxy Digital found that the banking system and gold consume more energy than the top crypto asset. 

The team at Galaxy Digital Mining wrote an excellent white paper examining #bitcoin’s energy usage.

Did you know that 19x more energy is lost in transmission than Bitcoin miners consume? Great research here—and we open sourced our methodology.

— Galaxy Digital Research (@glxyresearch) May 14, 2021

While the Bitcoin community has made efforts to become cleaner amid the debates, with El Salvador using thermal energy from volcanoes to mine Bitcoin and an increasing number of firms embracing renewable energy sources, the changes have done little to appease Bitcoin’s loudest critics. 

“Change the Code” says it will run ads in top publications over the next month. 

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies. 

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