Wonderful Engineering

Bitcoins Will Push Global Warming Above 2C Threshold By 2033

Despite Chinese threats of shutting down BTC and the constant comparisons to the dot-com bubble surge and crash, Bitcoins seem to be doing well. The currency which was once associated with the criminal activity is finding mainstream and philanthropic applications. The cryptocurrency also has a vast energy problem which has raised concerns of environmental researchers and energy analysts both. Many attempts have been made to get creative with Bitcoin mining. However, the activity involves a tremendous amount of energy consumption. A recent study is warning that Bitcoin mining might even lead to a climatic change and disaster.

Research by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UH Manoa) says that the emission done by the cryptocurrency alone can push the global temperatures above the 2 degrees Centigrade threshold by 2033. Randi Rollins, a master’s student at UH Manoa and co-author of the paper said, “Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency with heavy hardware requirements, and this translates into large electricity demands.” The UH Manoa researchers analyzed the information including Bitcoin mining computer efficiency, miner geographic location, and associated CO2 emissions and estimated that the use of bitcoins emitted 69 million metric tons of CO2 only in 2017.

Researchers also evaluated that the emissions which result from the societal adoption of other technologies. The outcome was indeed not right. If Bitcoins are mined at the slowest possible speed, then its cumulative emissions will warm the planet above 2 degrees centigrade in 22 years. If it is mined at the average rate of other technologies, then it will take around 16 years. Camilo Mora, associate professor of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at UHM and lead author of the study said, “With the ever-growing devastation created by hazardous climate conditions, humanity is coming to terms with the fact that climate change is as real and personal as it can be. Clearly, any further development of cryptocurrencies should critically aim to reduce electricity demand, if the potentially devastating consequences of 2°Cof global warming are to be avoided.”

The study has already faced some pushback as well. Eric Masanet, the energy modeling specialist at Northwestern University, has called the research fundamentally flawed and said that it failed to take into account the current stressful efforts at decarbonizing electricity production. Masanet said in a statement, “While the future growth of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is highly unpredictable, we do know that the global electric power sector is decarbonizing and that information technologies — including cryptocurrency mining rigs — are becoming much more energy efficient.” Despite the criticism, the work brings invalid points and concerns about the growing energy-intensive industry. When it comes to our environment, it is indeed better to be safe than to be sorry. It would be better if the development of Bitcoins is done in eco-friendly ways in the future to keep our climate safe as well.