The excitement, the fresh new car smell, the shiny sticker of Non Fungible Tokens is peeling off to reveal a sick underbelly we didn’t take the time to think about.
An NFT is simply a way to authenticate a digital item that (at present) can’t be faked or manipulated. Why not? Because each NFT is part of a database. A copy of the NFT is stored on every computer in the network of databases. If the NFT is ever sold in the future, every computer on the network updates its database with a record of the sale.
Because so many machines across the globe are updated, this can make carbon use an issue.
The computing power required to transmit data around the globe has a cost. Google, Facebook, Amazon, all have data centres and deep sea communications cables laid across the ocean floor. Connectivity costs money and requires more data centres. Data centres take resources in terms of power for the machines and cooling for the humans.
Microsoft are working on energy-efficient deep sea data centres, but even so, there is a cost to the environment.
A recent NFT from musical artist The Weekend was said to have emitted around 86,000 kilograms of carbon, which is about the same amount as would be deposited from 86 flights from London to New York. Wow! Carbon offsets are the order of the day with schemes around to help us plant more trees in an effort to make up for the wasteful things we do and the same is being talked about for NFTs.
Individuals and companies are paying others to cover up for emissions they can’t reduce themselves.
Non Fungible Tokens have now been added to the list of things we can offset carbon for. Offsetting carbon produced along with our NFTs might not be the best of solutions if they take off really quickly, which they seem to be doing right now.
There are people out there paying thousands of pounds for items that only exist in the digital world, yet have real, quantifiable negative effects in the real world.