Should we really care about the impact of NFTs on our environment?


Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), although still in their development, have already assisted several individuals in doing extraordinary things. Researchers have been able to generate money for scientific organizations, artists have been given new opportunities to develop and sell their work, and even Ukraine was helped by blockchain-based technology during the Russian invasion.

A pretty significant debate over climate change and the environment is also centered on NFTs. Also, there is an ongoing debate in terms of the impact of NFTs on the environment and climate change. :earth_americas:

In particular, some claim that NFTs considerably contribute to an already serious ecological issue by raising the already astronomical carbon footprint of blockchains like Bitcoin. Because of that, many times, the accusations are pretty severe.

Sadly, a large portion of this criticism is excessive and confuses hype with reality. Undoubtedly, the problem is really significant. But we must distinguish reality from fiction and put to rest the controversy about NFTs and the environmental impact that they are causing. If you want to believe it, a far more informative scenario follows the real-world facts on the environmental impact caused by NFTs.

How big is the impact of NFTs on the ecology?

Known as Web3, this improved version of the internet is being brought in with the aid of blockchain technology. The ability of blockchain to decentralize the web is one of its main benefits. How? By making it possible for a democratic community of users to store and handle data instead of a small number of massive middlemen that have complete control over everything and impose their own opaque policies.

Web3 is based on blockchain-powered crypto systems that enable data to be stored among distributed devices (nodes) all over the world, as opposed to depending on a central authority source. Therefore, it makes sense to view the blockchain in this regard as a shared digital database of data transactions, sometimes known as a public ledger. :globe_with_meridians:

All transaction records are kept in connected blocks in order to create a chain of recordkeeping, giving the term “blockchain” its name. The fundamental idea at play here is that system users, not outside entities like banks or large tech giants, confirm system transactions. Consensus leads to this. A majority of computers inside the network must confirm that a block is genuine before adding it along with the data transactions it includes. :closed_lock_with_key:

In order for that to happen, there should be a complex system that includes network users completing two different tasks. Some users verify the request and authenticity of a transaction using specialized software. To reach the network agreement and add the next block, the computers in the network must do a much harder (and more energy-consuming) calculation known as “mining.” To do this, network nodes—which are usually enormous mining servers—must solve challenging mathematical problems based on cryptographic algorithms.

The validation of a Proof-of-Work (PoW) is the method in question. In particular, this approach to network consensus is energy-intensive by nature. The reasoning behind this is to discourage anyone from trying to tamper with the ledger by making it difficult and resource-heavy to do so. :dash:

A transaction is made on the blockchain whenever an NFT is created, sold, or purchased. These transactions must be verified and included in a block, as previously mentioned, and the whole process needs energy. In this regard, some contend that NFTs’ energy requirements might have a negative impact on the environment. :confused:

Proof-of-Stake is significantly reducing the environmental effect of NFTs

We’ve already demonstrated that NFT transactions use some energy, which has an adverse effect on the environment. However, they are not required to. A team of researchers from London set out to examine the overall picture of how much energy is consumed by various blockchains and to identify which ones have larger and lower co2 emissions and why there is a difference. In particular, the researchers compared the popular Proof-of-Stake and Proof-of-Work blockchains (PoS). The findings were enlightening, showing that PoS is a substitute that uses hundreds of times less energy to function. :recycle:

By asking users to stake some of their cryptocurrencies in exchange for the chance to be selected at random to be a block validator, PoS drastically reduces the amount of computation needed to validate blocks and maintain the blockchain’s security. Furthermore, this selection mechanism eliminates away the requirement for system nodes to compete against each other to answer those really difficult mathematical equations, demonstrate their work, and add the next block into the chain. In fact, no complicated computations and no outrageous energy usage. :blush:

Ethereum blockchain migration to PoS consensus has lowered its energy use by 99.5 percent

This is essential because it demonstrates how blockchain might improve in beneficial ways. Actually, the second-largest blockchain in the world, Ethereum, is the perfect example. On September 14, 2022, the chain formally transitioned to PoS consensus after years of study and careful planning. Although data is still being collected, Ethereum developers and outside experts anticipate that the blockchain will use less energy by at least an astounding 99.95 percent. :heart_eyes:

Therefore, to claim that blockchain is causing ecological catastrophe is to disregard the fact that those systems’ flaws are already changing. It disregards the reality that the teams responsible for these systems are now putting a lot of effort into making changes. Could the same be true for other sectors of the economy? Again, this does not imply that the environment is unaffected by blockchain and NFTs. However, it raises doubts about the validity of the severe accusations thrown against them.

What about the gas fees required for NFT transactions?

Some of the critics may use the so-called “gas fee” that comes with Ethereum NFT transactions as an indication that blockchains are increasing the environmental damage. The ironically called gas fees are payments made to miners on the Ethereum blockchain in exchange for verifying blocks. They may be viewed as an indirect measurement of the processing power required to complete a transaction for which end users are responsible.

NFT transactions typically have higher gas fees than other transactions because they employ smart contracts and need more calculations than other transactions. Because of the complicated computations needed when engaging with a smart contract—and an NFT is indeed a smart contract—you will need to pay a little bit extra, and that is expressed in the gas fees. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this does not always translate into higher energy usage. As a result, it makes little sense to use it as a statistic to indicate the environmental impact of NFTs. :relieved:

Can we improve our climate with blockchain aid?

When all of the above is taken into account, a much less catastrophic picture than most portray is shown. The ecology is not being significantly harmed by NFTs themselves. Instead, their blockchains require a lot of energy. Therefore, blockchains—and not NFTs—need to evolve. Luckily for all of us, that is already happening.

Additionally, certain PoS ledgers, like Hedera, go further than carbon neutrality and actually have an overall detrimental impact on the environment. They can achieve this by choosing a low energy PoS consensus and then by trading the carbon offsets.

Carbon offsets are commonly used to describe a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions or an increase in carbon-storing capacity (for example, through reforestation) to make up for emissions that occur elsewhere. These carbon offset credits may be bought, sold, and traded, which is an efficient approach to fight climate change and promote the advancement of renewable energy technology. :battery:

NFTs are a fantastic opportunity to support creatives all across the world, generate money for charities, and accomplish a lot more. They bring with them intriguing debates about how society produces value and how our psychologies function. They confirm the belief that art is an integral part of human culture.


As we have seen, the accusation that blockchain and NFTs are causing ecological catastrophe is unfounded. The flaws in these systems are being addressed by the developers responsible for them. Additionally, blockchain technology has the potential to help improve our climate. We should not overlook the benefits of NFTs in favor of baseless accusations against them.

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