Not coins of the realm

Typography
Features

The increasing use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies threatens a catastrophic escalation of climate change, a new study is warning. Scientists say the amount of electricity involved in ‘mining’ the cryptocurrency could boost global temperatures by more than two degrees by 2033.

A team at the University of Hawaii Manoa has analysed the power efficiency of computers used in the administration of Bitcoin, estimating that the activity was responsible for the production of 69 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2017. They calculate that if Bitcoin is taken up at similar rates to other new technologies, it is likely to raise global temperatures by two degrees within 22 years at a conservative estimate, or in a worst-case scenario within 16 years.

Katie Taladay, who co-authored the study, published in the Nature Climate Change, said, "Currently, the emissions from transportation, housing and food are considered the main contributors to ongoing climate change. This research illustrates that Bitcoin should be added to this list."

Bitcoin purchases create encrypted transactions that are recorded and processed by a group of individuals referred to as ‘miners.’ They group each Bitcoin transaction executed during a given timeframe into a block, which is then added to an online chain, a form of public ledger.

Effectively, the study reveals that electricity demands for the mining verification process are very high indeed.

"We cannot predict the future of Bitcoin, but if implemented at a rate even close to the slowest pace at which other technologies have been incorporated, it will spell very bad news for climate change and all the people and species impacted by it," said professor Camilo Mora, the study’s lead author. Quite so.