Elon Musk recently tweeted that Tesla is going to pull support for Bitcoin over environmental concerns. This sent Bitcoin prices tumbling, and also has raised questions about the sustainability of cryptocurrency. So, can cryptocurrency ever be sustainable?
Why does Bitcoin mining use so much energy?
When people speak about the energy cost of cryptocurrencies, they’re usually talking about the impact of mining Bitcoin.
Bitcoin miners use a computer to solve increasingly difficult algorithms which form the blockchain. The trick is to get all miners to agree on the same history of transactions for the blockchain.
This mining process requires a significant amount of computing power, which in turn requires large amounts of electricity. This can pose an environmental issue when the miners use fossil fuels.
However, the large amounts of energy consumption required to mine Bitcoin is majorly a product of its increasing popularity, rather than being an inherent design element, says Liam Bussell from BANXA.
Is a carbon neutral cryptocurrency possible?
With this in mind Bussell says a carbon neutral cryptocurrency is theoretically possible if the miners use clean energy rather than fossil fuels.
Better, more energy-efficient blockchain mechanisms also could help this transition.
Although Bitcoin mining does require large amounts of electricity, it’s ultimately up to the individual miner whether they use renewable energy to power this process.
How does Bitcoin’s carbon footprint compare to traditional currency?
On the other hand, it’s important that we keep these discussions in the perspective of our current systems.
Rory Manchee from Brave New Coin argues that traditional fiat currencies also use considerable amounts of energy to mine and process the materials used in the production of notes and coins.
So how does Bitcoin stack up?
Let’s take VISA as an example. Digiconomist reports that Bitcoin uses far more energy than VISA. Also, the energy used by VISA is relatively “greener” than the energy used by the Bitcoin mining network.
How can cryptocurrencies reduce their energy output?
The reason that Bitcoin mining is so energy-intensive is majorly down to a process called proof-of-work.
However, some experts are already in the process of replacing this with the more energy-efficient proof-of-state. In this model, coin owners create the blocks rather than the miners. This negates the need for the computational heavy-lifting we currently see.
Are all cryptocurrencies equally harmful to the environment?
Different types of cryptocurrency are mined in different ways. Therefore, some currencies are more energy-reliant than others.
For example, Ethereum mining uses far less energy than Bitcoin mining.
Ethereum also has plans to change its proof-of-work algorithm to an energy efficient proof-of-stake algorithm called Casper.
‘Ecocide’ could be on the same level as war crimes
Lawyers have formed a new definition for ‘ecocide’, which places it on the same level as war crimes.
The draft legislation says ecocide is “unlawful”. It also outlines the “acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment”.
The law could become the fifth offence that the International Criminal Court prosecutes. It would become the first new international crime since Nazi leaders were prosecuted at the Nuremberg trials.
Jojo Mehta is the Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, who says the event was a “historic moment”.
“This expert panel came together in direct response to a growing political appetite for real answers to the climate and ecological crisis.
“The world is waking up to the danger we are facing if we continue along our current trajectory.”
There is currently no legal framework in place to deal with ecocide at an international level. But ecocide could place perpetrators on trial at the ICC or in any ratifying jurisdiction.
Marie Toussaint has made it her mission to progress ecocide recognition in the European Union.
“After years and years of non-stop mobilisation and struggle all over the world, recognition of ecocide has gained strength and public support.”
“This recognition is essential if we want to protect all life on our planet, as well as peace and human rights.”
The draft follows six months deliberations between 12 international criminal and environmental lawyers from around the world.
Last month, Australia’s Federal Court found the nation’s Environment Minister has a duty of care to protect young people from climate change.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in more danger than you think
UNESCO is urging Australian authorities to take action and place the Great Barrier Reef on the heritage list of sites that are “in danger”.
If the recommendation is followed, it will be the first time a natural world heritage site has been placed on the list as a result of climate change.
Australia’s environment minister, Susan Lay says she has joined the foreign affairs minister to contact Unesco’s director-general.
Ley says the government will “strongly oppose” the recommendation, describing the suggestion as a “backflip on previous assurances” that this would not happen.
Generally, “in danger” listings follow the after-effects of armed conflict, war, pollution and excessive urbanisation.
The UNESCO report says Australia’s 2050 reef plan “requires stronger and clearer commitments… urgently countering the effects of climate change”.
Meanwhile, Ley says “the government will contest this flawed approach, which is one that has been taken without adequate consultation.”
Ley believes climate change is the biggest threat to the reef, but the world heritage committee is “not the forum to make a point” about it.
“You weren’t blindsided, you had your eyes open”
Meanwhile Greens senator Sarah Hanson Young has slammed these comments on Twitter saying quote “Australia’s Environment minister says her government was “blindsided by the UN declaring the great barrier reef in danger.
Ahh no. You weren’t blindsided you had your eyes closed, you ignored the science and kept taking donations from the fossil fuel industry.”
Barnaby back: Why it’s a disaster for climate policy | ticker VIEWS
Australia has a new Deputy Prime Minister, with Barnaby Joyce now controlling the Nationals Party. Joyce has previously been at the forefront of controversy and has been known for his lack of recognition of climate change. So what does this represent for Australia’s climate policy and targets?
A bad move for Australia’s climate change policy
Australia is increasingly divided and isolated on its climate policies and targets. The rest of the world is moving towards reducing its carbon footprint, well before 2050. The UK has recently moved towards 78% carbon reduction by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison was inching closer towards 2050 targets, after the G7 summit. The Nationals party didn’t like this, and now Barnaby Joyce is reappearing in the Deputy Prime Ministers seat.
Australia is expected to step up its ambitions in a constructive way at the global climate conference in November. Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says Joyce is not the right person for the role.
“Australia is going to be expected to play a constructive and important role there. But those, like Barnaby Joyce, who don’t even believe in the science on climate change. He doesn’t think its a problem. He doesn’t think Australia needs to transition from fossil fuels. It puts Australia at stark odds to our closest allies… It leaves us out in the cold… this is going to be embarrassing.”
“It makes Australia a laughing stock on the world stage”
“It’s bad for the climate, its bad for gender equality, its bad for Australian women.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Road to net zero: Environment Minister insists there will be no change
Australia’s environment minister is insisting there’ll be no change to the government’s climate policy, despite the return of Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister.
The environment minister Sussan Ley insists the preference to reach net zero emissions by 2050 is still the government’s position.
Mr Joyce was elected as Nationals leader in a spill on Monday. He’s expected to demand greater control over future climate change policy.
The Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Joyce will negotiate terms for a new agreement this week
On tickerCLIMATE this week
Scott Hamilton and Holly Stearnes spoke with the director of IEEFA, Tim Buckley. IEEFA is the institute for energy economics and financial analysis and are accelerating the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.
Buckley says the decision to put Barnaby in this leadership position, is going to cause chaos for Australia.
“The fact that any Australian political leader can talk about climate science denial and can talk about fossil fuel subsidies, is ludicrous in this day and age.”
Tim Buckley, IEEFA
"More energy chaos for Australia" 🚨@TimBuckleyIEEFA disagrees with @Barnaby_Joyce's return to the leader of the Nationals and Deputy PM – stating it will be a poor decision from a #climate point of view. #climatechange #climateaction @SDHamiltonVIC pic.twitter.com/RujlLERqWW— ticker NEWS (@tickerNEWSco) June 21, 2021
Joyce’s return to this leadership position has sparked major concerns. Energy expert and co-host of Ticker Climate, Scott Hamilton, is baffled by the decision and says it will be a challenge for the Australian Prime Minister.
“Prime Minister Scott Morrison can’t even get bipartisanship within the coalition on climate policy.”
Australia's Prime Minister continues to struggle to get bipartisanship within the coalition on #climatepolicy. #tickerCLIMATE co-host @SDHamiltonVIC thoughts on #BarnabyJoyce as deputy PM. #Climatechange pic.twitter.com/d8bz0vWxFv— ticker NEWS (@tickerNEWSco) June 21, 2021
The end of coal
The International Energy Agency roadmap to net zero emissions says the world can afford to have no new unabated coal, oil or gas developments in the world from now on. All major training and military partners are now taking action by subscribing to the Paris agreement. When considering what this means for world coal exports and what the future of coal in Australia looks like, Buckley says there will be no use for coal at all.
“All of our major trading partners have committed to net zero emissions. The writing is on the wall for this industry. We need to talk about solutions. ”
Tim Buckley, IEEFA
One of Australia’s largest hoped for coal export markets is Vietnam, but even they don’t need Australia’s coal. Vietnam recently installed 9 gigawatts of rooftop solar in one year, that’s three times more than Australia did in ten years. Australia is heavily relying on Vietnam to import its coal, but why would they do that when they can do their own domestic zero emissions solutions at are at a lower cost?
“There is no future for thermal coal at a 20 year view”
Tim Buckley, IEEFA
[International Energy Agency, Net Zero by 2050]
Other climate news this week:
In Australia, the NSW Government will put an end to stamp duty on electric vehicles, to increase uptake. Drivers will also be offered thousands of dollars in other incentives, as part of the $500 million plan.
The extraordinary plan will be revealed this week, with a plan for battery-powered vehicles to account for more than half of all new car sales by 2031. However, there’s a catch, EV drivers will be hit with a road-user tax within six years to fund road and infrastructure spending.
“We’re charging up the nation to make NSW the Norway of Australia when it comes to electric vehicles.”
Environment Minister, Matt Kean
New South Wales will soon be the best place to buy and drive an electric vehicle in Australia.— Andrew Constance MP (@AndrewConstance) June 20, 2021
Our nation-leading Electric Vehicle Strategy will incentivise EV uptake, provide industry with the certainty to invest and make the technology accessible across the community. pic.twitter.com/Btk6tkFet4
South Korea has now committed to a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030. They have also committed to net-zero by 2050. This is a bold statement against climate change from South Korea, who are a really important trading nation.
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