The Appalling Environmental Impact of NFT’s

By Amelia Lipcsei

Nowadays, most people have heard of NFT’s. Scattered across social media, ingrained in the economy, and encountered by millions, NFT’s have risen to popularity in the blink of an eye. However, many individuals struggle to grasp what an NFT actually is: a digital token. Unlike Bitcoin, NFT’s hold unique properties; only the investor gains ownership to the online work they paid for, which usually consists of videos, digital art, and music. Some, such as the person who paid $6.6 million for a video by Beeple, believe that NFT’s will become a form of expensive, yet beneficial art collecting. Others view NFT’s as a complete waste of money, arguing that although buyers have the rights to the work, anyone can view it, making the purchase a complete waste of money. However, whether economically beneficial for purchasing or not, NFT’s simply are not worth the horrendous impact that they leave on the environment. 

Unfortunately, the majority of NFT’s sell on marketplaces that use Ethereum, a cryptocurrency that connects to a system called “proof of work,” which requires immense amounts of energy. To keep information secure, proof of work forces users to answer complicated puzzles that utilize energy driven machines. By solving these puzzles, people add on new transactions, which allows them to receive new tokens as a reward. Unfortunately, the security steps are intentionally inefficient, making stealing information not only extremely expensive, but also using energy immensely wasteful. SuperRare and Nifty Gateway, two major NFT sellers, built themselves around the usage of Ethereum, which uses on average the same amount of electricity as the entirety of Libya. According to Susan Kohler, a researcher of blockchain technologies, “Many NFT transactions send a stronger economic signal to the miners which may lead to increased emissions.” Essentially, if NFT’s continue to skyrocket in use, consequently pushing up the value of Ethereum, many users will attempt to profit by increasing their machinery, and thus, their pollution. 

Although researchers are looking for alternative solutions to reduce the amount of energy used by NFT’s, without a fool-proof plan for the future, the tokens will continue to increase in value and prominence, causing the amount of energy required to skyrocket. Unless people find a feasible solution in the near future, the impact of NFT’s on the environment simply is too great to allow the digital tokens to remain prominent in today’s society.