Environmental dark sides of new tech

There is a boom of new age technology with the latest inventions happening every single moment. In the race for development, many new techs are adopted without understanding the future environmental dark sides. For example, the development of recent technologies including electric vehicles (EVs), cryptocurrency, and NFTs have been widely adopted although it has a significant impact on the environment such as climate change, and loss of biodiversity. Therefore, before adopting any new technologies or products it’s important to understand their life cycle and impact on ecological services. In addition, it is essential to evaluate and understand the environmental cost of development to be sustainable.

What are the environmental impacts of EVs?

EVs are considered to be environmentally friendly alternatives to petrol or diesel vehicles. Now the question is how environmentally friendly it is. An EV requires high exotic, expensive, and toxic minerals than an internal combustion engine. Lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, neodymium, and dysprosium are crucial metals for EV batteries. The fate of EV batteries is a major issue because less than 5% of them are recycled, and the rest are disposed of in the environment. Therefore it has a major environmental concern and cannot be a greener alternative in the coming future. Specific instance of the same are as follow:

  • Nickel (a significant component of EV batteries) is present below the topsoil in the rainforest regions of Indonesia and the Philippines. Extraction and mining of Ni is surface mining, resulting in deforestation and extensive environmental degradation.
  • Lithium (the second major component of EV batteries) is present in arid regions. Mining lithium is energy intensive and difficult to manage. Lithium extraction generally takes 12-18 months and involves a highly water-intensive evaporation process. To produce and extract one ton of lithium, about 5 lakh gallons of water are used. This results in water depletion and loss of soil fertility.
  • Cobalt (another essential component of EVs) is a highly toxic metal, and prolonged exposure to Cobalt can result in various health issues related to the lungs, eyes, and skin. There is a significant environmental impact of Cobalt mining.
  • The mining of Copper is also an energy-intensive process and has a significant impact on the environment. Since open pit or strip mines are used for copper mining, they adversely affect topsoil, vegetation, wildlife, and groundwater.

Environmental impacts of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency works on blockchain technology and regulation of the currency is impossible by any single government or organization. Cryptocurrency transactions are increasing rapidly and so did the wealth of some investors. The most popular cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Cryptocurrency doesn’t use paper money and metals and is believed to be a greener alternative to conventional transactions. However, cryptocurrency mining is highly energy intensive. For example, Bitcoin mining is an automated process of validating without the intervention of any third party. The transaction validation process uses a large amount of energy. The whole network depends on the computational powers of thousands of mining machines. The carbon footprint of cryptocurrencies is as high as that of developing countries. At present, the Bitcoin network alone is responsible for around 73 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year and increasing every year. Cryptocurrency mining also generates a large amount of e-waste.

Environmental dark sides of new tech
Blockchain technology

Environmental impacts of NFTs

Another technology that has gained popularity recently and is also based on blockchain is non-fungible tokens (NFTs). An NFT is proof that a piece of digital art is of a specific person. In this era, it’s easy to create replicas of artwork with Photoshop, digital modeling, and high-end graphics. This has resulted in losses for the original creators and artists. These NFTs allow digital artists to stamp their originality on their artwork through digital ledger entry (blockchain).

The transaction on Ethereum to transfer the NFT increases the overall carbon footprint. The estimated carbon footprint of NFTs is unusually high.

Environmental dark sides of new tech
Transaction on Ethereum to transfer the NFTs

Environmental impacts of other energy sources

There has been an increasing focus on various kinds of renewable energies to lower the consumption of fossil fuels and mitigate the climate crisis. However, a complete dependency on renewable energy could crash our environment if we look at the land it would require to produce or generate the renewable energy that can fulfill global needs and reduce our reliance on fossil fuel-based energy sources. Hence, for sustainable development, we need to minimize the dark environmental sides of new tech.

Hydropower dominates or forms a significant share of the global renewable energy market. Building and operating hydropower projects can lead to several effects on the environment. The dams built to harness hydroelectricity pose a significant problem for wildlife and biodiversity. Along with that, there is also a greater risk of flooding and topsoil erosion. It can destroy landmass, wildlife, and people.

Coming to bioenergy, some of the biomass sources used to produce bioenergy such as forest products, crops, agricultural waste, and urban waste. Animal and human waste can be potential energy sources that may reduce carbon emissions. However, it can significantly increase methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that can lead to global warming. Hence, balancing every resource with its minimum environmental impact is crucial for sustainable development.


New technology is an urgent need for the development of society. At the same time, we should always consider its minimal environmental impact. With the world population above 8 billion with limited biocapacity and increasing global average temperature, there is an urgent need to address the climate crisis. The advancement in technology should be along with its minimum environmental implications. Growth and progress at the cost of the environment are not profitable and justifiable. Hence, considering the dark environmental sides of new tech is crucial for sustainable development.

Know More…

If you liked this post, share it!