What do Bitcoin mining, and greenhouse gases have in common? They both contribute to climate change.
According to the latest study published in the journal Nature Climate Change conducted by the University of Hawaii, Manoa, the excessive amount of Bitcoin mining can further aggravate our problem with climate change. The researchers examined the power efficiency of application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), the computers currently in use for Bitcoin mining.
As we all know it, Bitcoin mining demands heavy hardware requirements. This means a massive supply of electricity is needed to run these machines. More electrical supply needed, more coal is being harnessed and burn down to generate enough electricity.
In the US alone, electricity generation is considered the single largest source of CO2 emission with the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal the primary source of these gas emissions. Coal provides 57 percent of total energy harvested for electricity generation.
According to the study, in 2017 alone, an estimated 69 million metric tons of CO2 is released to the skies by Bitcoin miners. If the Bitcoin continues its trajectory, it could produce CO2 emissions enough to raise the global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius as early as 2023. This number may not sound and represent an alarm, but know that small numbers like this matters if we talk about the global scale. A 1.5 degree Celsius increase, for example, is enough to cause irreversible changes in our planet and lead to large-scale catastrophes.
A 1.5 degree Celsius increase in our planet’s temperature could cause ocean acidification. Ocean acidification occurs when a large amount of carbon dioxide is being absorbed by seawater, leading to a chemical reaction that would decrease the seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals. Ocean acidification will make it impossible for thousands of marine species like oysters, crabs, and corals to form their protective shells.
This temperature increase could also result in the melting of glaciers which will cause sea-level to rise. When this happens, homes of 40 percent of the world’s population living within 62 miles (100km) of the coast will be destroyed. So what more if we pass through the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.
“We are not aiming to predict the future of Bitcoin, but rather we hope that this research highlights the importance of considering the potential environmental impacts of emerging technologies in terms of CO2 emissions and climate change,” Katie Taladay, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “It is essential that emerging technologies like Bitcoin are developed and adopted with energy efficiency in mind.”
Randi Rollins, also one of the researchers, told Digital Trends that while Bitcoin is an “innovative and interesting” technology, there is a need for some changes with the way that coins are currently mined.
“Bitcoin highlights a broader issue: Emerging technologies and industries need to take their potential footprint into consideration, and make smart decisions for development, being aware of the consequences of emission production,” Rollins said. “Green, sustainable energy would allow Bitcoin to continue, as is, without the repercussions we outline in our paper.”