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Ripple’s co-founder and executive chairman Chris Larsen wants something done about Bitcoin’s carbon footprint.
In an interview with Bloomberg, the billionaire stated that bitcoin’s Proof of Work consensus was long overdue for an overhaul, and as such, he had lobbied various climate activist groups including Greenpeace to launch a “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign, with a US$5million fund to back the drive.
The campaign which is aimed at pressuring the bitcoin developer community to change the way bitcoin transactions are carried out pays special attention to the energy it consumes when mining block rewards.
“We are in this campaign for the long haul, but we are hoping particularly since bitcoin is now being financed by entities and individuals who care about climate change that we can compel leadership to agree that this is a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Michael Brune, a former executive director of the Sierra Club who is now in charge of the campaign.
A recent report by Cambridge University’s Centre for Alternative Finance has stated that Bitcoin consumes as much electricity as medium-sized European countries and more than Sweden, Larsen said that he believes that if Bitcoin’s energy consumption problems are not solved now, ‘in five years bitcoin may consume as much power as Japan’.
Since 2020, the U.S. has been playing host to a huge number of miners, seeing a drastic rise in the global hash rate. Currently, the U.S. is the biggest bitcoin mining country, hosting 40% of the global hash rate.
However, while Bitcoin mining has been a good thing for most crypto users, a substantial number of prominent players including Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk have been raising environmental concerns such as high energy consumption and bluster emanating from mining farms.
Furthermore, according to Larsen, “plenty of miners are repurposing old coal & gas plants and not being responsible stewards of the amount of power they’re increasingly using” hence jacking up energy bills for residents or sucking power from the grid regardless of overload, which is unacceptable.
Larsen now wants bitcoin miners incentivized to remove carbon from the atmosphere, by moving to a low-energy consensus mechanism such as Proof-of-Stake. To him, this would entail changing the network’s code to make Bitcoin less energy-intensive just as XRP, Solana, Cardano, and Ethereum, whose upgrade to PoS is slated for later this year and is projected to cut its energy consumption by 99%.
“Now with Ethereum changing, Bitcoin really is the outlier,” Larsen added. “Some of the newer protocols [like] Solana, Cardano are built on low energy.”
Larsen’s campaign has not sat well with the wider crypto community, Blockstream CSO Samson Mow and many other crypto pundits have voiced their displeasure with the proposed radical shift.
“Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen is bankrolling a $5 million ad campaign calling on Bitcoin-friendly CEOs to switch the network to proof of stake. Perhaps he prefers a world where CEOs can centrally control the future of a cryptocurrency network” – said Coin Center’s Neeraj K. Agrawal.
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