- Greenpeace’s ‘change the code, not the climate’ movement was borne a year ago
- The group has made headlines this week with a PR howler regarding an art installation to promote its campaign
- There are several reasons Bitcoin won’t, and shouldn’t, switch to a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism
Greenpeace launched its ‘change the code, not the climate’ movement this time last year, prompting Bitcoin to change from a Proof of Work (PoW) consensus mechanism to Proof of Stake (PoS), but so far it hasn’t really achieved much. The movement advocates a “basic” code change from PoW to PoS, claiming that if Ethereum was able to do it then there was no reason why Bitcoin couldn’t, and it still maintains this message. A year on, and seemingly still with no further self-education on the matter conducted (and with a disastrous PR effort under its belt), we list four reasons why Bitcoin will (and should) never change to a PoS consensus mechanism.
PoW has been used successfully for over a decade and has proven to be a reliable and secure consensus mechanism. PoS is still a relatively new technology and has not been thoroughly tested in the same way as PoW, so a shift to PoS could introduce new risks and uncertainties that could undermine the reliability of the Bitcoin network.
PoS is vulnerable to attacks such as the “nothing at stake” problem, where validators can vote on multiple conflicting blocks, potentially leading to a network fork.
One of the key advantages of PoW is that it incentivizes a large number of miners to participate in the network, which helps to keep it decentralized. In contrast, PoS requires validators to hold a certain amount of cryptocurrency, which can lead to centralization as a few large stakeholders can dominate the network.
Related to this is the fact that, even if a protocol change were stipulated, the thousands of Bitcoin nodes and miners would never vote for it, something that Greenpeace seems utterly unable to understand.
The very day that Ethereum moved to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Gary Gensler said that he now considered Ethereum a security. This has been borne out in the way that exchanges like Kraken and Coinbase have been targeted by the SEC, which alleges that their staking services constitute an unregistered sale of securities.
The SEC has gone on record to say that Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency that can’t be considered a security, a situation that would change overnight if it changed to a PoS consensus mechanism.
The route to achieving a switch from PoW to PoS is also something that Greenpeace seems unable to get its head round. It cites Ethereum’s switch as an example of the “basic” code switch required, but this is hilariously misguided – Ethereum has been working on a PoS switch since 2017 and it has only just been activated, not to mention the fact that it is still ongoing. And this is with an Ethereum Foundation behind it.
Bitcoin has no such foundation anymore, and the amount of individual stakeholders worldwide that would have to agree to such a plan and then carry it out is simply inconceivable. Those who remember the block size war will know all too well that trying to get miners, developers, users, and node operators to all come together over a period of years to affect a change that none of them want and that cannot be enforced is just out of the question.
Greenpeace Has Bigger Fish to Fry (and Save)
Overall then, the odds of Bitcoin switching to a PoS consensus mechanism are about as high as Greenpeace actually educating itself on how Bitcoin works. With Bitcoin’s energy use focusing more and more on renewables with every passing year, mining equipment becoming greener with each iteration, and Bitcoin mining only catering for 0.25% of all the wasted energy in the world, surely Greenpeace should be focusing its efforts elsewhere.