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Should You Be Alarmed of the Environmental Impact of Bitcoin Mining?

crypto mining

It is quite scary to think that the world is going to end because of Bitcoin. Bitcoin mining is an energy intensive process that requires a good amount of energy. It has been discovered the power used in Bitcoin mining is sufficient to power an entire country.

And now, this can be alarming according to the journal Nature Climate Change. According to studies, by 2033, Bitcoin emissions alone can increase the temperature of the world by 2 degrees Celsius.

Can It Really Be Catastrophic?

Though the alarming research is quite confident that Bitcoin mining can destroy the world, ThinkProgress interviewed three experts on the subject matter. They interviewed experts on the subject of IT energy use. Dr. Jon Koomey who worked as a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Library (LBNL), he mentioned that for more than two decades, the calculations surrounding Bitcoin’s energy use was rather complicated. He said that “one thing we should not do is recklessly extrapolate recent growth rates for Bitcoin into the future, as the Nature Climate Change article published today appears to do so”.

He also added that “I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous, irresponsible, and misleading such extrapolation can be”.  According to Dr. Koomey, analysts should never extrapolate in the manner that the researchers did.

In order to increase global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius, it is imperative to take a closer look at other factors such as carbon pollution, transportation, building, and industry. Until today, the amount of energy consumed by Bitcoin miners is still highly debated.

Mechanical engineering professor Eric Masanet thinks that “we can debunk their analysis pretty handily by pointing three egregious flaws”. Masanet is leading the Energy and Resource Systems Analysis Lab at Northwestern University. He said that “We know that the global power sector is decarbonizing and that IT (including cryptocurrency data mining) are becoming much more energy efficient. It appears that the authors have overlooked these two latter trends in their projections”. He also said that the researchers insisted on “tremendous growth in cryptocurrency adoption, resulting in inflated and dubious estimates of future carbon emissions”.

And lastly, you have Arman Shehabi who is a research scientist in Lawrence Berkeley National Lab saying that “The authors appear to have focused their analysis on a very unlikely scenario: one where the electricity demand of (individual) Bitcoin transactions and the carbon emissions from that electricity demand both remain static over the next hundred years, while at the same time Bitcoin immediately undergoes rapid adoption. Unfortunately, the article’s attention on results from this unlikely scenario obscures just how unlikely they are”.

Changing Mining Trends

Mining trends are changing. In fact, it is true that Bitcoin mining today uses a lot of energy. In fact, in Quebec, authorities decided to hike their rates for these businesses. There is also a shift in terms of the type of miners that get involved in the industry. Gone are the days when basement miners run a profitable business.

Today, those who are gaining profit from Bitcoin mining are now the big players. Bitcoin mining in China controls majority of Bitcoin hash rate in the entire world. But one thing remained true over the years, it is the fact that the industry changed a lot. And because of this, it is true that it is absurd to assume that Bitcoin’s energy consumption will remain the same in the next years.

Lee Jenkins

Lee is our resident cryptocurrency expert who knows the ins and outs of each coin and the blockchain technology behind them. You’ll find that most of our technical guides are written or overseen by Lee and they are all easily digestible by the new and experienced alike, so there is no better place to learn blockchain 101 than here. Occasionally you may see a news article from him if it’s tech related!