For a while, Jacob Collier was doing well selling NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to make some big money. Now, though, he’s had a change of heart. No more NFTs for him because Collier is worried about their effect on the environment and climate change.
Wait. How can something that has no physical form be bad for the environment? Because like all computer-based processes, NFTs suck up a lot of energy. The amount of electricity required to mine cryptocurrency so insane that some pros locate their operations within sight of hydroelectric damns where rates are the cheapest. It’s been suggested that Bitcoin mining on its own generates about 37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. That’s a larger carbon footprint than some entire countries.
Since NFTs are connected to the blockchain, they also require tremendous amount of energy to create and maintain. In fact, NFTs may be worse than mining cryptocurrency.
This is from an article called “The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of Cryptoart.”
While not as bad as Bitcoin, a single Ethereum (ETH) transaction [most NFTs are use Ethereum at the moment] is estimated to have a footprint on average of around 35 kWh.
This in itself, is ludicrously high. To put that into perspective, this is roughly equivalent to an EU resident’s electric power consumption for 4 days.
And this is for simply a single ETH transaction. This is for an act which takes a fraction of a second from the point of view of the person engaging in the act. A single click of a mouse sets off a chain reaction and sends a signal to mining farms around the world, which go on to have a footprint of 35 kWh for an ‘average’ transaction (details in Part 2), with emissions of close to 20 KgCO2 for that single mouse click³, due to the underlying PoW algorithm. (Whereas for example, an average email is estimated to have a footprint of a few grams of CO2, and watching one hour of Netflix is estimated at around 36 grams CO2 . An ETH transaction is thousands times more costly than other internet activities that individuals typically engage in).
And this is an average ETH transaction. Unfortunately, it turns out that NFT sales and related transactions on a PoW blockchain such as Ethereum, are a lot worse.
This article has a lot more scary numbers. You should read the rest. Sean also did a few calculations: “At 20kg of CO2 per NFT, their physical volume is 20x559L= 11,180 litres. That’s the equivalent of 40 bathtubs.” Wow.
Meanwhile, the lure of potential revenue has so many (too many!) people interested. Those folks should read this.
And there’s more. As some have pointed out, it’s possible for someone to take any original of an NFT, copy it in a certain way, and then turn that copy into its own NFT. That’s counterfeiting. Theft. NFTs can actually facilitate art theft.
Read more on this new type of digital theft here.