How can Cryptocurrencies be more Sustainable?

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Nakamoto’s answer was a digital ledger system with trust in the system achieved through mathematics and cryptography, and with transactions recorded in blockchain. Without physical money or a central authority, cryptocurrencies had to find a way to ensure that transactions were secure and that their tokens could not be spent more than once. Because some bitcoin investors have become millionaires overnight, more and more people are intrigued by the possibility of striking it rich through investing in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The advantage of this is that there are no transaction fees, anyone can use it, and it makes transactions like sending money across national borders simpler. But because this just seems like the rich getting richer while negatively contributing to climate change it’s not endearing itself to the public. If this is what Columbia Climate focuses on, it’s gravely distracted from real issues. Bitcoin was born in 2008 when a mysterious person (or persons) named Satoshi Nakamoto (whose true identity remains unknown), found a solution to these issues. Once the nonce is found that generates the target hash, the winning miner’s new block is linked to the previous block so that all blocks are chained together. These are non-fungible tokens-digital files of photos, music, videos or other kinds of artwork stamped with unique strings of code.

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New bitcoins are released through mining, which is actually the process of validating and recording new transactions in the blockchain. Proof of stake doesn’t require computational power to solve puzzles for the right to verify transactions. If there is less computing power operating, the system makes the puzzle easier by removing zeroes. The puzzle involves coming up with a number-called the nonce, for ‘number used once’-that when combined with the data in the block and run through a specific algorithm generates a random 64-digit string of numbers and letters. This involves checking 20-30 different variables, such as address, name, timestamp, making sure senders have enough value in their accounts and that they have not already spent it, etc. Miners then compete to be the first to have their validation accepted by solving a puzzle of sorts. The E-Waste issue has been debunked by Nic Carter and on-chain analysis from CoinMetrics, which shows that old mining rigs, such as 7-year old Bitmain S7s, are still actively used by miners. R.A. Farrokhnia, Columbia Business School professor and executive director of the Columbia Fintech Initiative, said, “It’s a marketplace and as long as people are willing to assign value to it, then that’s it.” Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency in the world, accounting for more than half of all cryptocurrency, can be used to buy cars, furnishings, vacations and much more.

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If the miners are unable to move, however, they are selling their equipment to other miners across the globe. Chinese miners to boost their own economies. The average NFT generates 440 pounds of carbon-the equivalent of driving 500 miles in a gas-powered car-producing emissions 10 times higher than the average Ethereum transaction. Greenidge draws up to 139 million gallons of fresh water out of Seneca Lake each day to cool the plant and discharges it some 30 to 50° F hotter than the lake’s average temperature, endangering the lake’s wildlife and ecology. One study warned that Bitcoin could push global warming beyond 2°C. Another estimated that bitcoin mining in China alone could generate 130 million metric tons of CO2 by 2024. With more mining moving to the U.S. Bitcoin, look up how bitcoin in supporting the development of sustainable energy, reducing waste gas flares, creating more efficient power production through grid load balancing. Other ideas for greening cryptocurrencies involve moving bitcoin operations next to oil fields where they tap waste methane gas that’s usually flared, pipe it to generators and use the power for bitcoin mining. Ethereum is aiming to reduce its energy use by 99.95 percent by 2022 through transitioning to an alternative validation system called proof of stake, as a few smaller cryptocurrencies have done.

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To be considered, potential validators stake their Ethereum coins (ETH); the more they stake, the greater their chances of being selected randomly by the system to be the validator. “I have a suspicion that Nakamoto had the notion that everyone could be a miner-that you could mine with nothing more than your laptop,” said Farrokhnia. With hundreds of thousands or more computers churning out guesses, Bitcoin is thought to consume 707 kwH per transaction. Nodes-powerful computers connected to the other computers in the network-run the Bitcoin software and validate transactions and blocks. Blockchain is a transparent database that is shared across a network with all transactions recorded in blocks linked together. Proof of Stake is just a corporation where the largest holders control the network. Cambridge CBECI clarifies on their FAQ that even if Bitcoin were entirely powered by the dirtiest coal plants in the world the entire network would still only comprise 0.35% of global emissions. Earth Justice and the Sierra Club sent a letter to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation urging it to reject the renewal of Greenidge’s permit that would allow it to increase its greenhouse gas emissions.

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