Don’t blame climate change on artists or fashion designers who use NFT.
A deep dive into Cryptoart.wft numbers & logic. What is the big picture for climate change, what are the solutions, how can we help?
After I published the first article about Digital Fashion, Art NFT, AR, VR, WebXR, etc. I noticed a lot of people in the AR VR industry claiming that Non-fungible Token use was unethical because it polluted the environment. The people who are saying this are sometimes sharing anti-NFT articles with what I felt were wild claims so I looked into it.
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People who share these “anti-NFT” articles say things like “the sheer scale of damage one person is capable of puts NFT-produced emissions in a fundamentally different category than the ones we have historically been producing. I mean, just look at this…40 years’ worth of emissions in three months from one person!?”
Some one else said: “I’m now unfollowing artists who create NFTs (aka cryptoart). The amount of pollution created by each transaction is a horror. Collectors, reject this crap and buy from artists who choose not to fuck over life itself.”
An example of cryptoart.wtf that people commonly screenshot or copy says: “One artist for example, released a handful of artworks, each editioned in the hundreds, totaling over 800 editions. In less than 3 months, thanks to the PoW algorithm used by the Ethereum blockchain, these 800+ editions collectively have a footprint in order of 140 MWh with 86 tones of CO2 emissions, equivalent to a EU resident’s total electric power consumption for 40 years, with carbon emissions equal to 100+ transatlantic flights.”
Just consider what they are saying again. From “one person”, one “artist”. “fucking over life itself”, with “40 years worth of emissions.” Imagine how these artists are feeling hear words like this being said about them for sharing a “handful of artworks”?
I’ve also read stories that provide a different perspective.
Dr. Katrina M. Kelly-Pitou PhD, Research Associate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh wrote “Stop worrying about how much energy bitcoin uses”
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“Banking consumes an estimated 100 terrawatt hours of power annually. If bitcoin technology were to mature by more than 100 times its current market size, it would still equal only 2 percent of all energy consumption.”
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I wrote to many people explaining that the http://crypto.wtf numbers that people keep sharing are like ‘1 artist sells 800 NFTs and creates carbon emissions equal to 100+ transatlantic flights.’ do not seem right to me.
That’s when I noticed that all of these “NFT will destroy the environment” comments on social media, and in news articles that I was seeing were citing the exact same source for their numbers, ie cryptoart.wtf?
Memo Akten’s research is behind CryptoArt.wtf and his blog is at memoakten.medium.com
Cryptoart.wtf is a website that links to a medium.com blog and visa versa. As Memo Akten’s noted his research and reports were widely ignored at first. I can understand why, it presents a very serious argument in a rather untraditional format, for example, his work is not published in nature, its not published on arxiv, its not peer reviewed by anyone, and its not appearing in any other respected science journal, nor is it the NYTimes or any major media publication. It’s just medium + an artistic website that is somewhat difficult to navigate and parse. Yet its the source of all this NFT hatred towards artists that I am seeing.
So I started questioning the numbers and eventually someone on social media responded to me saying “even if the numbers are not right, I don’t think comparing it with something that is already wrong makes that any better.
To clarify that I’m not making the statement that bigger polluters make it okay for smaller polluters. That’s not the purpose or intention of my argument.
If each artist selling 800 NFTs was creating the carbon emissions of 100+ transatlantic flights each, how could at the same time the total energy consumption of the entire blockchain ecosystem be only .02% of the banking industry?
Do Cryptoart.wtf numbers imply that 1 flyer on 1 jet is responsible for all the jet fuel of 100+ jets in 3 mths time?
I wrote to Memo Akten to ask about his methodology “You’ve tracked for example 1 NFT at a time through many different blocks, with across multiple smart contracts. What has been your method to calculate the carbon footprint of each NFT per block, compared to the carbon foot print of each block that this NFT is not responsible for? Or for simplicity purposes do you just assign that entire blocks energy to that 1 NFT?”
Memo Akten explains his methodology here:
The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of #CryptoArt (Part 2: Extras)
This is an accompanying article for the accompanying article for the website http://cryptoart.wtf
Akten explained to me that its the same method used here.
Your wallet’s footprint is derived from the sum of Ethereum Gas consumed for transactions leaving your wallet…
“Whereas an operation such as ‘minting’ an NFT (~260K Gas) will take up 260000/~12500000 => ~2% of a block. Since the energy required and footprint of mining a block is independent of its contents and number of transactions, the Gas required by a transaction is representative of the portion of a block’s footprint it will incur.”
At least the creator of cryptoart.wtf is not assigning the energy of the entire block to one NFT, it’s closer to 2% of a block, for each block, and each subsequent block, regardless of whether the original artist is involved or not.
Doesn’t that idea though, the way its expressed, make it seem like each 1 artist is being held responsible for the fuel of 100+ jets, including flights taken by other people? When in reality those 100+ jets or blocks might also be flying 3500 other artist’s NFTs at the same time? And a lot of the subsequent blocks or flights are from buyers selling to other buyers? How is the artist to blame for these reseller transactions?
That’s what it seemed like to me. I thought had cryptoart.wtf dramatized the estimate (or deceived us?)?
From reading the cryptoart.wtf website “Common Misconceptions” I began to think that maybe Memo Akten was taking some liberties for dramatization.
When I saw this I thought, aha, maybe I have spotted some incorrect logic. I hypothesized that the Memo Akten might have misinterpreted what he was calling a misconception.
Memo Akten decries the statement “The same energy is consumed whether a block is empty or contains your transaction” as a misconception.
That quote is pointing out that the same amount of energy in an airplane or a block is used up whether its 1 person or 300 (or 3500 people on that block), and that if the block is happening either way, the size of that transaction, or the quantity of transactions is not “increasing” the total foot print.
A block is the same amount of energy, regardless of how many transactions are in it. It can contain between hundreds to several thousand transactions, depending on the size of the transactions.
“Assuming an average transaction occupies 570 bytes of data, then a block can contain approximately 3,500 transactions, given the 1 MB limit.” April 2019 https://cryptoslate.com/bitcoin-transactions-per-block-at-all-time-highs/
The limit on the number of possible transactions per block isn’t really talked about in terms of transaction numbers because the real limit is the blocks memory, and also transactions can have different sizes. NFT transactions for example can be 10 times larger than smaller ETH transactions in some instances.
Akten explains that the concept of NFT responsibility has meaning because mining operations will grow. The key point to take note of is that tallying the NFT footprint by how many blocks it traveled through ONLY matters if the use of NFT’s causes cryptocurrency mining companies to expand their operations, to increase the rate of new blocks. Yet it is the mining companies, not the artists, who are making the choose to increase proof of work mining, it’s the mining companies who choose to use or not use solar, wind or hydropower energy sources.
What if the number of blocks or flights involved do not address the reality that there are many other artists, flyers or resellers, on these same blocks or flights? So the NFT Artist is going to be blamed for the whole flight or for some portion of it, and in addition for all the subsequent flights by the NFT resellers or traders?
From the Foot Notes on Part 2 of the Medium story Akten writes that “the minting, sales and bids on an NFT are not necessarily linked to the authors ETC account. To calculate the footprint of an NFT one must look at the smart contracts involved.”
“minting”, “transfers”, “bids”, “smart contracts” and presumable all the activity of resellers down the road is being added to the individual artists foot print for their NFT’s in these calculations.
The problem with this method of counting the carbon foot print of each artist who sold an NFT individually is not only the fact that in each block that carbon foot print was shared with other unrelated transactions, it’s that the original artist does not at all bear responsibility for the subsequent actions of resellers.
Some people are reading cryptoart.wtf, and all the people using cryptoart.wtf to blame artists, are perhaps imagining that the claim that 1 artist with 8 transactions is burning the carbon emissions of 100+ flights, also implies to them that 3500 artists would be burning the fuel and creating the carbon emissions equal to 350,000 transatlantic flights and maybe they imagine that the total size the energy expended by the NFT segment of the crypto market is multiplied by 3500.
But the total size the energy expended by the crypto currency market does not increase just because more people use it. It increases if more mining companies start mining, but the mining companies are responsible for that, not the artist.
I like to imagine that instead is that 3500 artists with their 8 NFT’s each all fitting on the same transatlantic flight, because all 3500 artists are having their NFT’s processed in the same 1 block, with the same energy output, and then all the resellers are taking the 100+ flights that follow, the 100+ additional blocks over time, so we never get to 350,000 transatlantic flights. It’s still just the same 100+ flights.
The numbers in my analogy are not exactly correct, but its a different perspective on what’s happening.
Memo Atkins might argue that we get to burning the extra fuel (350,000 flights) because widespread consumer adoption means more crypto currency mining companies grow their proof of work mining operations, incentivized by the higher gas or transfer prices.
In the case of crypto currency in particular there is a solution in moving to proof of stake. The other side of it as that greater adoption will force NFT art and fashion dealers to flee the higher gas or transfer prices by moving their transactions to proof of stake systems like Polygon.
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But if you compare total amount of pollution from Crypto currency to everything else, then are missing the forest for the trees. I am not saying that a smaller polluter is good in the context of a big polluter, I am pointing out that by focusing on the wrong targets you are harming the effort to meaningfully effect climate change.
The Real Solution
Some NFT art and fashion dealers, and we can take Digitalax as an example for this, have already moved to use zero-gas systems like Polygon (Matic), that are based on Proof of stake instead of proof of work. So artists and designers that sell their art with Digitalax can know that they are not contributing to environmental pollution.
If you sold your Digital Fashion with Digitalax, your carbon foot print is close to zero.
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This is a growing trend because NFT art and fashion dealers are fleeing not only for environmental reasons, but because the expensive gas, of proof of work systems, like Ethereum (and other blockchains) are getting more expensive fast, the more people use cryptocurrency, the more expensive transfers get.
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So in theory we ought to encourage more people to use NFT because that will make transactions more expensive, and that means that more NFT companies will switch to proof of stake faster.
In addition communities and business’s can rally local and national governments around the world to pass common sense laws mandating the increased use of solar, wind, hydropower energy sources worldwide, especially for mining, as part of solution to reducing the impact of future climate issues.
The largest economies, at the government level, could consider laws mandating a timeline for cryptocurrency mining companies to switch to from running proof of stake operations and away from running proof of work operations.
In addition we can encourage people in our local communities to continue to support artists and fashion designers to use NFT in part because as the world transitions away from Central Banking to DeFi that decreases the total energy consumption, and that is better for our climate efforts.
Supporting artists, designers, gamers and developers who use NFT supports the blockchain ecosystem, which reduces pollution created by the worlds dependence on central banks.
During the transition from central banking to defi we also need to encourage & support the transition from coal, oil, wood to solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower energy, which can power decentralized finance (defi).
Mastercard’s embrace of defi is a sign. “Mastercard Will Let Merchants Accept Payments in Crypto This Year” via CoinDesk, “The payments giant plans to support digital currency transactions directly on network.”
In summary supporting NFT artists, supports the blockchain ecosystem, which reduces pollution created by the worlds dependence on central banks, and accelerates the transition to proof of stake systems so we help the environment in two ways.
These facts mean that NFT’s are good for climate change, and that we should be nice to artists who choose to use them.