Is the outcry over the environmental impact of NFTs justified?


In the latest in a four-part special on NFTs and the music industry, Forkast examines fan backlash over blockchain technology’s power consumption.

Part 1 of the series examines how NFTs and blockchain technology could redistribute money and power in the music industry. Part 2 explores The new token economy of K-pop. Part 3 examines how the NFT platform is bringing musicians into the crypto world.

The Asian music industry is doing everything possible to ride the NFT wave, with K-pop entertainment agencies hoping to cash in on the loyalty of their artists by adding non-fungible tokens to their line of licensed products.

But the music industry’s enthusiasm for NFTs is not shared by some fans. Despite the recent huge success of Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou’s PhantaBear NFT collection, a groundswell of opposition against other NFTs seems to be building among many fans of K-pop and other music.

Along with accusing artists and companies of being greedy, music fans fear — with little data to back it up — that the blockchain technology behind NFTs is harmful to the environment.

Fans of K-pop sensation BTS — or “ARMY” — tend to use hashtags, including “#ARMYsAgainstNFT” and “#BoycottHybeNFTon Twitter, claiming that NFTs are not environmentally friendly. Many also said they would prefer tangible, not digital products.

The fan reaction was sparked by recent announcements from South Korean talent agencies about their artists’ plans for NFTs and the Metaverse. HYBE, the label behind BTS, partnered with blockchain company Dunamu to create NFTs that fans could collect and trade on its current community app Weverse, while JYP, another top K-pop talent agency , has also partnered with Dunamu to develop an NFT distribution and trading platform.

Cube Entertainment – ​​which manages popular groups such as BTOB, PENTAGON and (G)I-DLE – has teamed up with Animoca Brands to form a joint venture dedicated to creating a musical metaverse and broadcasting NFT .

Thomas Baudinette, a senior lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney whose research interests include K-pop innovations, said Forkast this dominant narrative among fans was their concern that companies “should be investing in art, not mechanisms to line your pockets and exploit our spending”.

Fans also considered BTS and HYBE to be hypocritical.

“Here we had BTS standing at the [United Nations] advocating around climate justice and democratizing access, and now their management company is getting involved in an industry that historically hasn’t necessarily been very good at tackling climate change issues,” Baudinette said.

Baudinette added that K-pop, as a fandom space, is full of all sorts of informal economies like the trade in photo cards and other highly creative practices among fans that are unregulated but somewhat encouraged by the agencies. “But if companies themselves start controlling these engagement mechanisms [by having fans trade NFTs on official platforms], it kind of dampens the fun of K-pop.

Areum Jeong, an assistant professor who teaches Korean pop culture at the University of Sichuan-Pittsburgh Institute, said that while music companies insist on issuing NFTs, fans are loudly telling them their desire for greener technologies. Fans are also clear-headed about the economic motives behind all NFT plans.

“For businesses, it’s new ground to create new content that could benefit from it,” Jeong said. Forkast. “So in a way it’s kind of seeing the fans as a way for them to profit more and more.”

How polluting are NFTs?

There is a raging and still unsettled debate about the environmental impact of NFTs.

Last spring, a New York Times article that linked NFTs to “greenhouse gases” and “global warming” sparked concerns that have since turned into a firestorm. The report, citing an analysis by independent researchers, concluded that striking an NFT could cause the environmental equivalent of 211 kilograms of CO2 emissions. But the researchers who wrote the data analysis later clarified that the analysis was biased and not an “all sides of the story” research note.

Some blockchain industry experts also claim that this dataset didn’t quite match up – and that there is currently no good data on the actual environmental impact of NFTs as it was difficult to weigh all of them. factors, including the carbon footprint of alternatives to NFT.

“This is one of the things I wish we had more hard data and based on real scientific study, and less assumptions and guesswork,” said Zach Burks, CEO and Founder of NFT Marketplace. Mintable. Forkast.

Read more: What is Bitcoin’s environmental impact — and what are the solutions?

U-Zyn Chua, CTO and Principal Researcher at DeFiChain, said: “If you look at all this [live] concert scene, there is a lot of environmental impact overall. But if you compare that and NFT, which is going to give them the most environmental impact? I think NFT would have much less impact.

Chua added that the blockchain for any given NFT was not invented just for NFT or music use. “NFT just rolls over existing infrastructure that already consumes the same resources with or without NFT,” Chua said. Forkast. “He doesn’t consume more – just whatever is already consumed today.”

Greener options

In a larger context, the issue of NFT energy is really about the technology and politics of the crypto industry, and the ease with which miners gain access to renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal, solar and hydroelectricity. Often, Chua added, crypto miners use excess electricity from these clean sources that would otherwise be wasted.

“It’s actually a store of value that could then be used to further encourage greener options and activities,” Chua said.

Ethereum, on which the vast majority of NFTs are currently built, aims to become more energy efficient and is expected to migrate this year from its current energy-intensive proof-of-work (PoW) model to a proof-of-stake (PoS) mechanism. consensus that should consume much less power than the PoW mechanism.

“Each NFT is different in terms of the contract it uses and the gas it emits,” Burks said. “It’s not related to the NFT itself, but also to the Ethereum network.”

Read more: How UN Goals Guide New Blockchain ESG Investment Vehicles

Many NFT issuers are indeed looking to mint on low power PoS blockchains. For example, DigitalArt4Climate, an NFT initiative associated with the United Nations, aims to promote art not only on PoS blockchains, but also to inspire environmental activism around the world.

Miroslav Polzer, founder and CEO of IAAI GLOCHA, an Austria-based organization that led DigitalArt4Climate, said Forkast that the initiative’s carbon footprint is “a million times smaller than comparable proof-of-work blockchain solutions” because it was built on the Polkadot proof-of-stake chain and Kusama NFT.

One of the most popular NFT collections last year, Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot is powered by the Flow blockchain, which also runs on PoS consensus.

Ultimately, the goal is to make the process as environmentally friendly as possible, Burks said. “But it’s an iterative process.”


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