Bitcoin’s mining procedure is energy intensive, leading environmentalists to believe that the coins could do more harm than good. A new study now suggests that Bitcoin’s carbon footprint as large as Las Vegas.
Bitcoin is harmful to the environment
As issues related to increasing carbon dioxide emissions are leading the environment to its tipping point, energy-intensive technologies like Bitcoin are facing a critique. A study by the researchers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Technical University of Munich shows that the power consumed by Bitcoin to create new blocks and process transactions for light up Las Vegas.
The researchers said in the journal Joule that the power used by Bitcoin could be used to light up a large city in the West like Las Vegas. The power consumption could also be equivalent to that used by a small developing nation like Sri Lanka. The researchers also shared their methodology, suggesting that they combined the results of carbon emissions from electricity production from places where Bitcoin miners were based.
Is Bitcoin a threat to the environment?
The study shows that the Bitcoin network produced as much as 22-22.9 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year as of late 2018. The total emission of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels was 37 billion tons last year. Though Bitcoin’s contribution to emissions is minute in comparison to the total global emissions, they have a significant impact.
Christian Stoll, co-author of the study said that there are other factors that contribute much more to climate change. However, Bitcoin’s carbon footprint is “big enough” to start discussing the possibility of regulating crypto mining in regions where miners use energy generated by burning fossil fuels. According to the research, 68% of Bitcoin’s computing power comes from Asia, while 17% comes from Europe and 15% from North America.
However, some Bitcoin researchers like Alex de Vries is taking these recommendations with a pinch of salt. He questioned if the research methodology used in the study was reliable. However, he notes that the emission figures calculated by the study were consistent with his own findings. De Vries also suggested that the real numbers could be on the lower end. Talking to the Associated Press, he said that the research authors were very conservative about energy figures.
Bitcoin’s energy consumption has always been a matter of contention, given that it processed only 81 million transactions, compared to 500 billion transactions by the global banking system in 2018. The real shock, according to de Vries comes from the carbon emission per transaction on the Bitcoin network, which could be about 271 kg of CO- thousands of times higher than a standard banking transaction.