Cryptoart.wtf, the popular crypto art carbon calculator that allowed us to see the real impact the NFT buying craze is having on our poor planet, is shutting down. Its creator, Memo Akten, stated that he decided to take the site down after information from it was used “as a tool for abuse and harassment.”
In a message to the site posted on Friday, Akten said he believed that information on the ecological costs of crypto art should be available to the public, just as similar information is available for flying, iPhone manufacturing and use, or watching Netflix. Akten, an artist and computer scientist, did not specify the kinds of abuse and harassment that led him to shut down the site, although one might deduce that he was referencing the blaming of artists selling crypto artwork based on the message.
“I support artists, and we should support each other,” Akten wrote. “Our conversations should not be around comparing individuals to each other, comparing you to them, or me to you. Instead, I believe we have a responsibility to be critical of businesses whose values are opposed to the values that we wish to see moving forward, while simultaneously we work towards building and supporting equitable platforms that avoid senseless damage to our planet.”
Gizmodo reached out to Akten to ask for comment on the closure of Cryptoart.wtf. We’ll make sure to update this blog if we hear back.
For those unaware, Cryptoart.wtf allowed users to track the carbon emissions associated with any NFT, which stands for “non-fungible token,” or the current popular pieces of digital art right now. When you buy an NFT, the transaction is recorded and certified on a public ledger known as a blockchain. The token is unique and can therefore not be exchanged for something identical or similar. What you get when you purchase an NFT, therefore, isn’t even the artwork itself. Rather, you get a “proof of ownership” of the real thing.
The above would all be fine and dandy if the mere process weren’t putting more stress on our planet. See, processing a transaction on a blockchain — most crypto art is being sold on the Ethereum blockchain, which uses ether as its cryptocurrency — requires the work of a lot of computers all around the world. These computers compete against each other to solve complex maths problems in order to generate accurate records of the transactions that can’t be changed, a practice also known as mining.
The computer that finishes first wins, earning its owner a ton of money. The other computers, meanwhile, basically did work and wasted energy for nothing.
That’s where Cryptoart.wtf came in. Per the calculator, processing Grimes’ recent sale of 303 editions of a short video called Earth as NFTs for $US7,500 ($9,658) each cost 122,416 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In layman’s terms, the energy used was the equivalent of a European Union resident’s average total electricity consumption over 34 years, or 79 tons of carbon dioxide.
However, a transaction doesn’t even need to be big to generate a worrying amount of pollution. Gizmodo sold an NFT of a tweet of a recently adopted cat named Larry earlier this week for $US50 ($64) in ether. The transaction used the equivalent of 11 kilowatt-hours, per Cryptoart.wtf, or the average electrical use of a European Union resident for an entire day.
It’s imperative that we have an important conversation about NFTs and their carbon pollution problem. As we’ve stated before, blaming artists isn’t the answer. This is a bigger problem that no one person can solve on their own. In addition, it’s also not as simple as planting trees, which are common carbon offset projects employed by polluters.
“CryptoArt is a tiny part of global emissions. Our actions in this space is a reflection of the mindset that we need in our efforts for larger-scale systemic change,” Akten wrote.