Greenpeace and Ripple CEO call for bitcoin code change due to energy consumption
Chris Larsen, founder of Ripple, has found an ally with Greenpeace to attack bitcoin. He wants bitcoin to move away from proof of work mining and become more energy efficient. To this end, they have started the “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign with various climate activists.
The campaign will buy ads in several magazines over the next month. Greenpeace, the Environmental Working Group and some local activist groups rely on their millions of members to share the message.
Change the Code, Not the Climate
Michael Brune is leading the campaign, and he says they have already had success with “Change the Code, Not the Climate.”
“We are in this long-term campaign, but we hope, especially since Bitcoin is now funded by entities and individuals who care about climate change, that we can force leadership to agree that this is an issue that needs to be addressed”, said Brune. “Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, PayPal, Venmo, Fidelity, there are a lot of companies that we expect to help with that.”
Bitcoin has no central leadership
Brune may be confusing bitcoin with another currency such as XRP, where Ripple is in charge. Bitcoin has no leaders and is completely decentralized. There is no CEO you can address, and no one is at the top of the pyramid. In addition, the companies mentioned do not have much to do with mining bitcoin.
Yet the campaign is counting on support from various quarters. According to Brune, frustration is mounting in some areas in the US where bitcoin miners are located. He says there are complaints about noise, but he has to come up with something substantial if he is to convince the public of his campaign.
Not green enough
Last year, China banned bitcoin mining, after which a huge number of miners moved to America. Almost all American bitcoin miners promise to mine completely green, but that is not enough, according to Larsen.
He says bitcoiners are ultimately incentivized to find and use energy as cheaply as possible, not to keep mining green. He has a point there, but he forgets that green energy is often the cheapest. It is not for nothing that most miners are attracted to areas such as hydroelectric power stations.
To reinforce his point, he naturally mentions Russia. Larsen fantasizes that Russia can use all its cheap energy to persuade bitcoin miners to come to Russia.
Ethereum and proof of stake
Larsen says bitcoin can change the code via a soft or a hard fork. A soft fork would mean that there is still only one blockchain. A hard fork splits Bitcoin into two separate networks, one supporting miners and the other with different code, perhaps proof of stake.
Ethereum is gearing up for the merge, a major software update that will make the network more energy efficient. At the moment, Ethereum’s network uses miners to approve transactions with proof of work, just like bitcoin. But within months, Ethereum could switch to another method called proof of stake, which Vitalik Buterin says will reduce energy consumption by 99%.
Larsen thinks bitcoiners should look at the changes at Ethereum. “With Ethereum changing, Bitcoin is really the odd one out. Some newer protocols like Solana and Cardano are built on low power consumption.”
The Ripple chief has bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP and says he has invested $5 million to fund the campaign. “I want to see Bitcoin and Ethereum succeed.”
The importance of proof of work
Larsen’s opinion is not a new opinion. Proof of work receives a lot of criticism, but criticism of proof of work is the same as criticism of bitcoin. Bitcoin would no longer be bitcoin if they were to move away from this system.
The purpose of proof of work is to create an irrefutable, financial history. When two histories vie, the one with the most work put in wins. This is called the Nakamoto consensus and is by definition the truth.
This works because doing work costs energy. You can’t get around this, and you can’t lie about it. You will be rewarded for the work you have done, by your proof of work. In the case of bitcoin, doing work means providing computing power. This computing power is used for the simplest thing there is, namely: gambling on a number. Each gamble is a gamble in itself, you are not making any progress with your previous attempts.
Building reliable bridges
Gigi is the author of the book “21 lessons What I’ve Learned from Falling Down The Bitcoin Rabbit Hole”, and he elaborates on this:
“This computation is the only bridge between the realm of information to the physical realm. When we deal with information, we only have information and the transformation of information: calculation.
Calculations require energy. Energy is the bridge. Energy is real. Remove this bridge to the physical world , and you remain in fantasy land: you don’t know what really happened. You will have to rely on others to tell you what happened. You cannot verify it yourself. You have to rely on trust.”
Proof of work is not only useful, but absolutely necessary for bitcoin. Reliable digital money cannot do without. You always need an anchor to the physical realm. Without this anchor, the transaction history is not self-evident , and you cannot rely on it 100%. Gigi concludes: “Energy is the only anchor we have.”