Bitcoin consumes as much electricity as Sweden
How can something that does not physically exist pollute? The fact is that cryptocurrency mining farms require a large amount of energy. In fact, if bitcoin were a country, it would be among the 30 largest consumers of electricity in the world, as 11Onze agent Aitor Canudas explains.
Just a few days after the first bitcoin transaction, which took place in January 2009, cryptocurrency pioneer Hal Finney expressed his concern on Twitter about the CO₂ emissions that this cryptocurrency would generate. And he was not wrong.
A Cambridge University study estimates that the bitcoin network consumes more than 121 TWh of energy annually, which means that, if it were a country, it would be “among the 30 largest consumers of electricity in the world”, according to Canudas. In fact, to give us an idea of the magnitude of the data, the 11Onze agent indicates that this cryptocurrency consumes almost as much electricity as Sweden and generates more CO₂ emissions than Las Vegas.
The reason is that the processes necessary for cryptocurrency operations require a large amount of computer equipment, the “mining farms”, and therefore a huge amount of energy. “This set of computer processes needed to validate transactions and generate new blocks represents 0.2 % of the world’s electricity consumption“, specifies Aitor Canudas.
The problem is particularly relevant in the case of bitcoin, since, as Bill Gates recently warned, this cryptocurrency is the one that consumes the most electricity per transaction. According to estimates by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the use of bitcoins generates a carbon footprint each year of between 22 and 22.9 megatonnes.
The dirty source of clean energy
While we usually see electricity as a clean energy, this basically depends on its origin. Particularly in Asia, and especially in China, much of the electricity generated comes from burning coal, which is highly polluting. Therefore, the fact that a very high percentage of mining farms are located in this region to achieve the most affordable electricity prices multiplies the carbon footprint.
In order to preserve the environment, Aitor Canudas points out the need to increase the percentage of renewable energies in the electricity used “to create the new blocks and make bitcoin transactions”. Another alternative pointed out by the 11Onze agent would be to resort to alternative cryptocurrencies, such as cardano, “which in theory pollute less than bitcoin”.
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