Bitcoin Leaves A Carbon Footprint The Size Of A Small African Country, Study Finds

Avatar
Written by Ann Brown
Bitcoin
Graphic by Autumn Keiko

Bitcoins are turning out not to be so friendly to the environment, at least that’s what a new study found.

“A new study found that the cryptocurrency Bitcoin requires a lot of electricity, leaving a significant carbon footprint — one that rivals the environmental impact of Las Vegas or a small country like Sri Lanka. Each year, Bitcoin generates about 22 megatons in CO2 emissions, the researchers estimate,” CNN reported.

Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, use blockchain technology to confirm transactions and this validation process requires “vast amounts of electricity.” And this causes substantial amounts of carbon emissions, found the study conducted by researchers at the Technical University of Munich and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This process is called bitcoin mining. “Bitcoin is mined by specialized computers. Bitcoin ‘miners’ solve computational problems to link together, or ‘chain,’ blocks of transactions…As the Bitcoin market has expanded, the mining process has become professionalized. Because larger comapanies have become involved in mining, researchers were able to use data from mandatory IPO filings — data used to estimate the energy requirements of Bitcoin mining,” UPI reported. 

“Naturally there are bigger factors contributing to climate change. However, the carbon footprint is big enough to make it worth discussing the possibility of regulating cryptocurrency mining in regions where power generation is especially carbon-intensive,” one of the authors, Christian Stoll, said in a statement.

According to researchers, Bitcoin mining must have 46 terawatt hours of electricity per year. Most bitcoin mining is done in Asia — 68 percent — and Europe hosts 17 percent, while North America accounts for 15 percent of Bitcoin mining.