Non-fungible tokens accelerate damage to environment


Photo by Marco Verch. Used under CC-BY-2.0

While the use of NFTs has increased, their environmental impacts have been put into the spotlight as well.

Luke Barlow, Staff Writer

More and more facets of society are becoming digitized. This extends to the art industry as well, with the use of non-fungible tokens or NFTs.

Non-fungible means that the token is unique and can not be traded like money or Bitcoin. According to Forbes, an NFT represents objects in real life, with some of these objects being digital music, paintings and even tweets. NFTs are important because they sell for large amounts of money. However, you cannot really do anything with them, as they are the same as digital art.

While the hype surrounding digital art may have people excited, it comes with a severe, hidden cost. NFTs are secured by the Ethereum blockchain, a system similar to what a bank would use for traditional money exchanges. According to Digiconomist, a single Ethereum transaction, which includes NFTs along with other cryptocurrencies, uses about 85 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is approximately the same power usage of the average US household over 3 days. In an interview with The Verge, PhD fellow Sussane Köhler said that NFT transactions may lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, which will cause a rise in global temperatures and worsen climate change.

“My opinion on NFTs is currently negative,” Padakanti said. “If they are increasing carbon emissions, the use [of NFTs] should be prevented.”

According to their website, Ethereum currently uses a lot of energy, but it hopes to improve soon. They proposed an alternative called Eth2, which replaces its security system with one that is less energy-intensive. Although this system is a good start, it may be too late. If Ethereum cannot implement this new system fast enough to mitigate its impact on the environment, NFTs could very well be one of the many factors that will make the earth uninhabitable.

“If we were to find a process in which we could sustain NFTs without taking an excessive amount of energy, I would invest my money into them,” freshman Christian Callaghan said. “NFTs could be the future if they become environmentally friendly.”

A temporary ban on NFTs because of their environmental effects would be advisable. CNBC reports that the government already has motivation to ban NFTs because crypto art could be used for tax evasion.

“I would completely support a halt of the selling and producing of these NFTs if we are to solve the world’s issues in carbon emission.” Callaghan said.

While the prospect of digitizing our lives is a fascinating possible future, NFTs’ current impact on carbon emissions is one that simply cannot be ignored. A temporary ban until Ethereum starts operating Eth2 could effectively address the issue.

“I do not think people should buy and sell NFTs,” Padakanti said. “We should do as much as we can to prevent the change that will happen in the next few years.”