New Scientist reports Bitcoin miners conspicuous consumption of (mostly fossil-based) electricity at 23.07 terawatts annually, see “Bitcoin Energy Bill Matches Ecuador’s!” “Thus, COP23’s newest challenge is from the growing speculative bubble of Bitcoin and the rush to additional cryptocurrencies.
Distrust in governments, their fiat currencies, corporations and institutions, as well as other people, has led to this mad dash for Bitcoin and hundreds of other “altcoins” and this profligate waste, not only of electricity, but also valuable computer power.
Paradoxically, the search for ways to reproduce and scale the vital human asset: trust, is breeding self-defeating paranoia! Trust, generated in face-to-face human interactions and communities over millennia is proving hard to replace by algorithms, technology and machine learning, as well as in the demise of trust in social media as reported in The Economist cover story (“Social Media’s Threat To Democracy” (Nov. 4-10, 2017). COP23 needs to take the huge waste of energy and its CO2 emissions into account in IPCC models.
Not since the Dutch tulip mania has human greed, blindness, fear and stupidity led to such collective insanity. This has produced another new pathology: these cryptocurrency miners are now hijacking other peoples’ personal computers in a new kind of cybercrime, reported in FORTUNE (Nov 1, 2017), see “To Catch a Cryptothief “, where file-sharing websites, such as CBS Showtime and many others including The Pirate Bay, which hosts cryptomining software, are hoping this will be an alternative for revenue to online advertising (now $83 billion annually in the USA).
Start-ups offering cryptomining software include Coinhive, JSECoin, CryptoLoot and others, offer these tools to file-sharing websites and their unsuspecting visitors. FORTUNE (November 1, 2017) reports that Israeli cybersecurity firm, Check Point’s Maya Horowitz warns that cryptomining software can make computers crash and provide an avenue for hackers to insert their own malicious code.
The New Scientist editorial “Waste Not Want Not: Bitcoin needs to stop squandering resources” (4 November 2017) has sounded the alarm. Surely, it’s time for such cryptocurrencies waste of electricity, computer power and resulting CO2 emissions to be held accountable and factored into COP23 and the next negotiations and INDCs.
All this waste is the very opposite of the vaunted promises of profit-motivated Silicon Valley libertarians and their promises to save the world. They invested in the thousands of blockchain based startups in the hope that blockchains and other distributed ledgers could deliver that priceless human asset: trust, without which human societies and markets cannot function. We pointed this out in 2004 in our Ethical Markets mission statement at www.ethicalmarkets.com/AboutUs . We have long advocated currencies based on solar electricity.
The good news is that some of these cryptocurrency platforms are trying to re-engineer and re-design these distributed ledgers, including Ethereum, but this is a work in progress. We at Ethical Markets partner with the best example we found : SolarCoin www.solarcoin.org a foundation that offers Solar coins as a “reward currency” ( like airline miles) which it offers anyone in the world who can prove they are successfully harvesting free photons form our Sun to generate electricity —the very opposite of Bitcoin and its ilk.
Now we need to make all these misuses of blockchains accountable, set standards for thermodynamic efficiency, avoiding fossil fuels and CO2 emissions, and hewing to COP23 and included future INDCs. This will steer these new FINTECH startups in a healthier direction.
Hazel Henderson, author of “Mapping the Global Transition To The Solar Age” and other books, is CEO of Ethical Markets Media Certified B. Corporation, USA and Brazil.