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Breakpoint 2023: Sooner™ Climate Challenges and Opportunities of Blockchain

An exploration of climate challenges and potential roles of blockchain technology for a sustainable future.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!


Joshua Archer, a Project Lead from Greenpeace USA, took center stage at Breakpoint 2023 to address a critical contemporary issue: the intersection of blockchain technology and climate change. During his talk, he highlighted shared values between blockchain enthusiasts and environmentalists, with both groups envisioning a better, sustainable world. Archer articulated serious concerns regarding Bitcoin's energy consumption and its impact on the climate while contrasting it with other blockchain technologies like Solana, which could potentially offer greener solutions. His presence at a blockchain-focused event underscored the urgency of collaborative action to ensure technological advancements align with necessary climate progress, rather than exacerbating the crisis.

Key Points:

Blockchain's Impact on Climate

Joshua Archer emphasized the dual nature of blockchain as a powerful tool that can either aggravate or alleviate the climate crisis. Blockchain's energy-intensive operations, particularly those associated with Bitcoin, pose a significant concern due to their substantial carbon emissions comparable to entire countries such as the Netherlands. Archer's perspective on Bitcoin's environmental impact is not rooted in opposition to the technology itself but in the urgent need to address its carbon footprint.

Greenpeace's Stance on Bitcoin

Contrary to some misconceptions, Greenpeace's campaign does not aim to change Bitcoin as it stands today but to prevent the steep climb in its energy use, should its value continue to rise. Archer clarified that Greenpeace is neither advocating for a transition of Bitcoin to renewable energy sources—deeming it impractical given the current growth trajectories—nor pushing for a ban on cryptocurrencies. The campaign purely focuses on curbing carbon emissions, irrespective of the financial systems or efficiency debates.

Opportunities for Blockchain in Climate Action

The talk pivoted to the potential of blockchain technology to act as a force for good in the fight against climate change. Archer expressed being inspired by conversations with Solana developers who share concerns regarding climate issues. His appeal to the Solana community was clear: to find and promote blockchain applications that favor environmental sustainability. Archer emphasized the shared responsibility and opportunity to leverage blockchain for the planet's benefit.

Facts + Figures

  • Joshua Archer, Greenpeace USA Project Lead, discusses blockchain's environmental impact at Breakpoint 2023.
  • Blockchain, notably Bitcoin, consumes energy on par with the Netherlands and has equally high carbon emissions.
  • Archer clarifies Greenpeace's campaign goal: to curb carbon emissions, not to change Bitcoin's current state, transition to renewables, ban crypto, or bolster the current financial system.
  • He calls for a cooperative approach between environmental activists and blockchain developers to ensure technology serves the global climate goals.
  • Archer is open to dialogue and ideas at the conference, asking for community engagement to drive proactive change.
  • The event ended with an invitation to continue discussions at the Solana Refi event and to follow Greenpeace's campaign for further engagement.

Top quotes

  • "I looked around the room and I saw a lot of people who were passionate about envisioning a better world, about doing things differently."
  • "Blockchain has already had an important and enormous impact on the world and that's not going to change."
  • "One of the blockchain technologies that has emerged as potentially being a net negative that's already impacting the climate is Bitcoin."
  • "We get to choose is blockchain's impact on the world going to be a net positive?"
  • "What concerns me is carbon emissions, and at the moment, the Bitcoin chain is producing a lot of carbon."
  • "Blockchain, as I said, is going to be a part of the future that we're building."
  • "So we get to choose and we have to choose for it to be a force for greater good."

Questions Answered

Why was Greenpeace invited to a blockchain conference like Breakpoint 2023?

Greenpeace was invited to spotlight the environmental consequences of blockchain technologies, and to collaborate with blockchain enthusiasts on creating a sustainable future that aligns technological advancements with climate goals.

What is Greenpeace's current campaign about regarding blockchain and Bitcoin?

Greenpeace's campaign focuses on addressing the substantial carbon emissions caused by Bitcoin operations, warning of the dangers if its value and consequently its energy use continue to rise.

How does the blockchain community's vision align with that of Greenpeace?

Both the blockchain community and Greenpeace share a vision of innovating for a better world. The two groups can find common ground in their desire to create sustainable and positive change, hence the push for eco-friendly blockchain solutions.

Are there opportunities for blockchain technology in environmental sustainability?

Yes, there are potential applications of blockchain that can contribute to addressing climate issues. Activists like Archer believe that with a responsible approach, blockchain can be a tool to promote a green, just, and joyful planet.

Why does Greenpeace not favor converting Bitcoin operations to renewable energy?

Greenpeace believes that the growth rate of Bitcoin's value and its energy consumption would outpace the availability and development of renewable energy sources, making such a transition unfeasible at the scale required.