On one side is the impressive metaverse. It’s billed to revolutionize all matters involving the internet completely. It will be key in the future when more people are browsing and more businesses will switch online. On the other hand, climate change is probably the most catastrophic consequence of human advancement. It is all largely tied to increasing carbon emissions beyond nature’s ability to absorb it. The crucial question is, how is metaverse going to affect the climate? Can it reduce carbon emission volumes? Read on to learn more.
A Brief on Metaverse
The metaverse is described as a network of immersive 3D virtual worlds that are interconnected to improve social connections. At its peak, it is touted to be just as diverse and in-depth as the real world by having all services available.
Eventually, most, if not all, businesses or public services will be obliged to have a metaverse variant. The militaries of the world’s leading superpowers have already jumped on the gun and seen it as the next competition frontier.
It’s a Two Way Traffic
Like any other new technology, its impact on the environment is contradictory. On one end, it could result in significantly more emissions. On the other hand, it will offer a very high level of improvement in efficiency and cut down on activities that are major carbon emissions producers.
In several areas, emissions are set to make a huge jump, all in a bid to set up and run the metaverse as conceptualized. The various technologies that will be instrumental are quite energy-hungry, as highlighted below;
Blockchain is one of the most indispensable parts of the successful roll-out of the metaverse. It powers Web 3.0, billed to be the next iteration of the internet, by incorporating decentralization and tokenization to improve browsing speed and experience. The improved speed and experience are the primary selling points of the metaverse.
But blockchain is very energy hungry. Bitcoin, for instance, is said to consume slightly more electricity than the republic of Argentina when minting the crypto. It’s mostly expended in solving a difficult cryptographic problem; something metaverse will most likely use. The metaverse is expected to grow rapidly and be valued at about five times the current crypto market cap in a decade. That’s a lot of carbon emissions from power generation waiting to happen in the coming years.
At its very core, the metaverse involves a huge network of highly interconnected high-resolution 3D virtual reality worlds. That, unfortunately, doesn’t bode so well with the tech’s carbon footprint.
For starters, the switch to high resolution greatly impacts envision figures. A study by the UK’s University of Bristol had very worrying findings. If just 30% of gamers whose resolution range is 720P to 1080P switched to cloud gaming by 2030, emissions would go up by 29.9%. Even worse, if 90% of gamers made the transition, a 112% increase in carbon emissions from the industry would be realized.
Potential for Even Higher Reduction in Emissions
But it’s not all gloom and doing for the environment where the metaverse is concerned. The arguments mentioned above for increased carbon emissions are the same raised for green energy solutions.
Case point, electric vehicles are a very energy-friendly innovation. On the other hand, the process of mining Lithium and Cobalt, shipping the same to battery manufacturing sites, and converting them into batteries is a huge CO2 emitter. Below are arguments showing the benefit of the metaverse to the environment.
Reduced Transportation Requirements
Metaverse as a solution to transportation-based emissions is undoubtedly the most solid argument for the tech. It’s also possibly the most impactful green movement the world can ever experience.
The reason why is that transportation accounts for a whopping 41% of global carbon emissions! No wonder every innovation that tries to reduce emissions in the sector makes waves globally. While other solutions aim to reduce the emissions for every kilometer traveled, the metaverse removes the need for traveling altogether.
Someone in the US can go on a date below the Eiffel Tower in France with someone from Australia in minutes. Or they could go for an evening stroll on the great wall of China and go shopping somewhere on Mars, and the goods get delivered. All that without leaving one’s house, with the experience being just as real visually as going there in person, thanks to the immersive 3D virtual world network.
The emission reduction from that is, simply put, life-changing. It’s all dependent on the adoption levels of people onto the metaverse.
Computing Emissions May End up Much Lower
The emission figures highlighted above are very valid and straight to the point. But there is a factor that has to be considered. Emissions are calculated using current technological capabilities in power generation and use.
In reality, the situation has been changing very rapidly for the better for the last decade, and it’s only just accelerating. Many countries are phasing out energy sources with high emissions, such as coal and other fossil fuel power electricity generation systems. Emissions from power consumption to power blockchain systems are bound to go down substantially.
The demand for available data centers for processing capacity is bound to rise exponentially. It’s one of the areas predicted to increase electricity consumption and thus related CO2 emissions heavily.
A new development, however, points to a much different reality. While cloud-hosted network workloads and server storage increased by 2600% from 2018 to 2020, their energy consumption only rose by 10%. Such impressive performance is attributed to shifting the workload to larger, more efficient servers. With the current rapid improvement rates, energy consumption may reduce even with increments in data centers.
Climate change has been a top concern for policymakers and citizens worldwide. With increasing global warming issues, such as unpredictable weather patterns and rising sea levels, reducing carbon emissions is a concern for everyone.
The metaverse promises to be very instrumental in effecting just that. It tackles the world’s leading polluting sector, transportation, creating the possibility of heavily denting carbon emissions.
It, however, doesn’t come without a downside of increasing emissions in its own right. That’s if current power generation and technological advancements persist. The two are rapidly improving on all fronts.