Confronting the Carbon-Footprint Challenge of Blockchain

Xiaoyang SHI, Hang XIAO, Weifeng LIU, Klaus. S. LACKNER, Vitalik BUTERIN, Thomas F. STOCKER

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

The distributed consensus mechanism is the backbone of the rapidly developing blockchain network. Blockchain platforms consume vast amounts of electricity based on the current consensus mechanism of Proof-of-Work (PoW). Here, we point out a different consensus mechanism named Proof-of-Stake (PoS) that can eliminate the extensive energy consumption of the current PoW-based blockchain. We comprehensively elucidate the current and projected energy consumption and carbon footprint of the PoW- and PoS-based Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchain platforms. The model of energy consumption of PoS-based Ethereum blockchain can lead the way toward the prediction of other PoS-based blockchain technologies in the future. With the widespread adoption of blockchain technology, if the current PoW mechanism continues to be employed, the carbon footprint of Bitcoin and Ethereum will push the global temperature above 1.5 °C in this century. However, a PoS-based blockchain can reduce the carbon footprint by 99% compared to the PoW mechanism. The small amount of carbon footprint from PoS-based blockchain could make blockchain an attractive technology in a carbon-constrained future. The study sheds light on the urgency of developing the PoS mechanism to solve the current sustainability problem of blockchain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1403-1410
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Volume57
Issue number3
Early online date6 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

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