How NOT to report on the carbon footprint of bitcoin and NFTs

Galaxiss (NFT) by Xenoliss. Licence: CC BY-NC 4.0

News request #1: Bitcoin mining contributes the same greenhouse gas emissions as Italy or the Czech Republic

On 7th of April (AEST), Nature Communications published an article claiming bitcoin mining in China was threatening global sustainability efforts. Hours after Nature’s press release went out, a journalist asked if I had seen it. When I said I had not, she offered me an hour to read the article, at which point she would call me back.

Reporter #2: An NFT would drive 500 miles

The second reporter wanted to talk about the environmental cost of NFTs. She had seen an estimate that the environmental cost of minting a single NFT to be the same as driving more than 500 miles in a gasoline powered car. The problem with this calculation is that one NFT doesn’t directly translate to an increase in hash power for the Ethereum blockchain.

End of story?

Negating climate change matters a lot to me and I welcome press coverage of good research in general. While some will argue that any use of fossils fuels in the maintenance of blockchains is unjustified, there’s a chance we might need technologies that allow us to track production and consumption of resources and goods (the so-called circular economy) to combat climate change. Secure public blockchains enable us to do that in ways that cannot be manipulated by corporations and governments. I have more to say about this in Part 2.

Further reading

If these points seem familiar to crypto readers it’s because I’m not the first to make them.



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Ellie Rennie

Ellie Rennie


Professor at RMIT University, Melbourne. Australian Research Council Future Fellow 2020–2025: “Cooperation Through Code” (FT190100372) Twitter: @elinorrennie