The Merge : A Major Ecological Impact for Ethereum

The Merge of Ethereum in September 2022, moving from a proof-of-work (PoW) mechanism to proof-of-stake (PoS), was a major turning point in reducing the network’s carbon footprint. According to a report by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF), the network’s ecological impact has fallen considerably, with energy consumption down by 100,000 since the merger.

Ethereum’s energy consumption divided by 100,000 after the Merge

Previously, Ethereum mining via proof-of-work consensus was extremely energy-intensive. This method required huge amounts of electricity to enable miners to validate transactions and secure the network. However, with the switch to proof-of-stake last year, the situation has changed radically. Despite the increase in the number of nodes, overall network energy consumption collapsed by 99.97%, according to Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance.

From now on, 48% of the network would be powered by sustainable energies, including 32% renewables and 16% nuclear. Wind power is the main renewable source, contributing 12%.

According to a recent report from Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) this technological transition, has led to a more than 100,000-fold reduction in grid power consumption. It has thus gone from consuming the energy of Chile to that of a small village of 300 people!

The study estimates that Ethereum’s historical greenhouse gas emissions up to The Merge amounted to 27.5 million tonnes of CO2, or 0.06% of 2020 global emissions, equivalent to a country like Honduras or Lebanon.

Proof of stake: an ecological revolution?

Electricity consumption on the Ethereum network was rising steadily, reaching the considerable figure of 45.8 TWh per year. In response, the Ethereum Foundation decided to modify its consensus algorithm. This situation gave rise to strong criticism. As a result, September 15, 2022 will go down in history as the official switch to a proof-of-stake mechanism, reducing the network’s energy consumption to around 0.05 TWh per year.

According to the CCAF report, this spectacular transition was facilitated by the majority of the community’s alignment on the need to adopt a more ecological mechanism. This resolution is the subject of debate in Bitcoin, where a significant part of the community remains attached to proof-of-work mining. Admittedly, the proof-of-work consensus has always raised concerns about its high-energy consumption. Nevertheless, its real environmental impact is less crucial than some people imagine.