The NFT art craze is booming, at the cost of the environment
The blockchain used for NFTs produce detrimental amounts of greenhouse gases and contributes to climate crisis.
A nonfungible token (NFT), is a one-of-a-kind cryptocurrency token. It’s unique with no one NFT being the same. Its one-of-a-kindness is the driving force behind why NFTs are sold for millions of dollars.
NFTs have recently gained popularity, with big-name brand companies and celebrities like Marvel and William Shatner selling NFTs. Any digital image can, in retrospect, be made into a ‘one-of-a-kind’ NFT, like the digital kitten that was sold for U.S. $170,000 or the digital images of rocks that were sold for up to U.S. $40,000. While the winning bidder has a right to say that they now ‘possess’ the NFT, images of the NFT are free for the general public to see. Even tweets can be made into an NFT.
But there are plenty of artists using the platform because of the ability to retain more profit over their artworks without the need for “a middleman” like art directors, museums, and so forth. Buying NFTs of artworks also means supporting artists you like.
However, anyone can take an image, video, or object and make it into an NFT. What does this mean for artists? Well, digital thieves looking to get rich can take the artwork and post it as their own. This ‘phenomenon’ isn’t unusual, with pirated versions of artists’ works being sold each and every day on online platforms like Amazon and Etsy.
With the growing popularity of NFTs, individuals are becoming increasingly aware of the detrimental environmental effects caused by the Ethereum blockchain. Cryptocurrency machines that store each and every NFT (as the domain is active 24 hours a day) eat away at energy. Alternatives suggest that renewable energy should be used to fuel these machines—energy that can be used for heating or lighting homes.
Artists or individuals contributing to the NFT craze propose to pay for carbon offsets, but the ‘solution’ is as superficial as their claims that greenhouse gas emissions would still be produced, regardless of whether or not everyone were to stop using Ethereum apps and no transactions were sent.
Let’s partake in a thought experiment. An individual, call him ‘John,’ contributes on the platform. When faced with criticism regarding the negative effects of the platform he is active on, he says he’ll offset emissions by investing in renewable energy, conservation projects, or technology that fixes the ‘CO2 problem.’ But, that’s essentially saying “I’m part of the problem and here’s what I’m trying to do to make a difference,” a difference that doesn’t address the problem at all.
The Ethereum blockchain, like most cryptocurrencies, uses a system built on a fee called “gas.” In order to manage transactions, the system uses machines that use extreme amounts of energy. At the moment, the Ethereum blockchain continues to consume energy. But rest assured, there are plenty of discussions regarding decreasing emissions down to zero per cent, they just haven’t been implemented yet.
It is high time that we become more consciously aware of our energy usage. As it stands, NFTs still use an extreme amount of energy. More miners mean higher demand on energy and higher demand on energy drives up the cost. While there are blogs and articles out there boasting about Ethereum’s secure platform, much of the discussion pokes at the ‘early-stage technology in need of improvement’ trope to shoo away environmental concerns.