We could see planetary warming to reach 2 degrees Celsius by 2033 already as a consequence of mining for cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin and other forms of virtual money are widely touted as the currencies of the future. These cryptocurrencies remain largely free of government interference and thus offer their possessors a certain degree of financial freedom.
There’s a bit of a problem, though. The benefits of Bitcoin will come at a great cost to the environment, according to a new study.
Users mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by using banks of computers and serves around the planet. Yet these machines require plenty of energy to power them. With more and more people mining virtual currencies, power use may well skyrocket owing to the massive electricity demands of computers and servers.
Researchers from the University of Hawaii have crunched the numbers. Their estimate for the next two decades is that if the use of Bitcoin is set to move at the speed with which other emerging technologies like credit cards and smartphones did in the past, we could see planetary warming to reach 2 degrees Celsius by 2033 already as a consequence.
“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,” says Katie Taladay, a PhD student who cowrote the paper.
“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 the people and species impacted by it,” adds Camilo Mora, associate professor of geography who was the study’s lead author.
“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,” Mora says. “Clearly, any further development of cryptocurrencies should critically aim to reduce electricity demand, if the potentially devastating consequences of 2°C of global warming are to be avoided.”