Bitcoiners Scoff at Chris Larsen's $5M Campaign to Force a BTC Code Change

The Ripple executive and allies at Greenpeace assume that all it takes for a fundamental change to bitcoin's code is getting 50 firms and core developers on board.

AccessTimeIconMar 29, 2022 at 2:52 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 9, 2024 at 11:21 p.m. UTC
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The bitcoin (BTC) community is reacting harshly and incredulously to a planned ad campaign by Ripple co-founder and Executive Chairman Chris Larsen and Greenpeace USA that would advocate a code change to reduce the energy use of the largest cryptocurrency by market value.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news late on Monday. Larsen confirmed the campaign and explained his thinking on Tuesday, tweeting out a subsequent report by Bloomberg along with some comments.

The campaign aims to change bitcoin's proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm, which requires vast amounts of energy. Larsen is putting $5 million into the ad campaign, which is dubbed “Change the Code, Not the Climate” and set to roll out over the next month, according to Bloomberg. The campaign will run ads in leading publications such as the New York Times, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch and on Facebook, and some of the ads will take aim at bitcoin's most famous supporters including Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, Block (SQ) CEO Jack Dorsey and Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson, according to a press release from the organization.

The chances of such a measure being implemented from the top down, without widespread consensus, are dubious, however. The organization claims in its press release "that about 50 key miners, exchanges and core developers have the power to make a software change." But an attempt five years ago to make a major change to the software failed, despite the backing of some of the largest startups in the industry, because of user backlash.

On Twitter, Larsen recognized efforts efforts from miners Gryphon Digital Mining, Argo Blockchain (ARGO) and Riot Blockchain (RIOT) to use renewable energy, but said many other miners "are repurposing old coal & gas plants and not being responsible stewards of the amount of power they’re increasingly using." Using renewable energy is not a long-term solution because the PoW system incentivizes miners to find the cheapest energy, he argued.

Larsen didn't specify what system he prefers to replace bitcoin's PoW, but praised Ethereum's decision to move to a proof-of-stake (POS) model. Ripple, which is chaired by Larsen (and is fighting allegations from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it sold the XRP cryptocurrency as an unregistered security), will not be involved in the effort, he said.

The reaction from bitcoin proponents was swift and harsh.

UPDATE (March 29, 19:02 UTC): Updated with details from Change the Code's press release.

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Eliza Gkritsi

Eliza Gkritsi is a CoinDesk contributor focused on the intersection of crypto and AI.


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