Blockchain technology is an exciting new technology with many unexplored potentials. Since the technology’s inception in Bitcoin in 2009, the application of blockchain technology has expanded significa,ntly with new use cases of the technology entering the market almost daily. However, the curradoption retention of blockchain technology has raised several concerns. One of these concerns is the sustainability of blockchain technology. In this article, we look at the topic of blockchain sustainability by looking at how a blockchain can affect the sustainability of a consensus protocol.
What is Consensus Protocol?
A consensus protocol is a critical part of every blockchain network. It is essentially a set of rules and parameters that define how transactions are processed within a network and determine how nodes in the network communicate.
Most Popular Consensus Protocols
The most popular consensus protocols to date are Proof of Work and Proof of Stake. Each has its challenges, and for the sake of this article, we’re going to look at how these challenges limit the sustainability of a blockchain. Before we continue, let’s look at what is meant by blockchain sustainability.
Both Sides of Blockchain Sustainability
The term blockchain sustainability is somewhat vague. Looking at how to make blockchains more sustainable, the two focus areas focus on are the environmental impact of a blockchain network and the transaction volume (transactions per second) of a blockchain; by designing and implementing solutions that address both areas of blockchain sustainability, blockchain to unlock their true potential and become fully mainstream. Now let’s look at the challenges of the two most popular blockchain consensus protocols.
As you will recall, one of the responsibilities of a consensus protocol is to define how transactions are processed within the network. It describes how the decentralized network of nodes reaches a consensus on the occurrence of each block before finality. With the curve adoption ratio of blockchain technology, blockchains using Proof of Work and Proof of Stake are starting to build up a backlog of unprocessed transactions on their networks. This relates to nodes in a network not being able to process the transaction speed needed to meet the available network traffic.
Another issue is the negative environmental impact of a blockchain network. This applies even more to Proof of Work blockchain networks because more computing power is required to process transactions on a Proof of Work blockchain than n a blockchain using any other consensus protocol.
The negative environmental impact of Bitcoin indicates the magnitude a Proof-of-Work blockchain can have on the environment once it reaches a certain number of daily transactions. At the time of writing, the Bitcoin network uses more energy than Switzerland, and as the number of daily transactions on the network increases, so will the magnitude of its environmental impact. This is a big reason why Proof of Work blockchains are not considered sustainable. For this reason, most of the Proof of Work blockchains, especially Ethereum, are moving to Proof of Stake.
This last point applies to both Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake blockchain networks at risk of centralization. The primary motivation behind blockchain networks is to enable distributed, decentralized networks. However, the Proof of Stake and Proof of Work consensus protocols risk being highly centralized. With Proof of Work, if a person or company can get a large amount of computing power, the network may lose its degree of decentralization. This can be seen by large companies purchasing cryptocurrency mining equipment in bulk. In doing so, they distort the block reward payouts, making the network less fair. That’s why Proof of Stake was created.
Proof of Stake has a more protected degree of decentralization than Proof of Work. This is because network validators are chosen not by the amount of computing power they contribute to the network but rather by the amount of native cryptocurrency they allocate to the network with random selection logic. However, there is some concern about how lucky the selection logic of a Proof of Stake network is; some say that validators with more staked cryptocurrency have a better chance of validating transactions, thus earning more block rewards. Hence, Proof of Stake blockchains may not achieve the desired decentralization in a blockchain network.
If the desired decentralization for a blockchain network cannot be achieved, it is only a matter of time before it becomes fully decentralized.
Blockchain sustainability can be divided into two main parts: Blockchain’s environmental impact and transaction volume. Both are somewhat dependent on the network’s consensus protocol, which defines how transactions are processed and how nodes interact with each other on the web. The two most popular consensus protocols to date are Proof of Work and Proof of Stake. Each of these consensus protocols has limitations that limit the sustainability of blockchain networks. If these limitations are not addressed, blockchains will not be sustainable enough to become mainstream.
Posschain offers a promising solution for blockchain sustainability. Posschain is a blockchain ecosystem that ensures the scalability and interoperability of blockchain networks. Still, the ecosystem also provides sustainability by increasing the efficiency of a blockchain network and reducing its environmental impact. This is made possible by combining the ecosystem’s AI-enabled consensus protocol with other blockchain technologies such as sidechains, ZK-Snarks, and the Proof of History protocol. Together, these technologies form a closed, decentralized, super-performing blockchain ecosystem with a shallow environmental impact.