How Bitcoin Mining contributes to Climate Change?

What do Bitcoin mining, and greenhouse gases have in common? They both contribute to climate change. Well, indirectly.

According to the 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.

While this activity indirectly affects the changes in our environment, it still remains as one of the many major causes. And if we can’t find something to address this concern, it will cost us our world, big time.

How Bitcoin works?

How Bitcoin works

To understand how Bitcoin mining works, we first need to understand how Bitcoin, or cryptocurrency in general, works. Bitcoin is defined as a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system”, which basically means “digital cash”.

Previous digital cash systems are centralized. Centralized means, it was being controlled by a central authority (that could be the Federal Reserve Bank for the United States). But centralized systems are prone to government control and interference, hence, previous attempts to digital cash systems failed.

Bitcoin is decentralized. No one is in control of anything. However, this also makes it hard to check records for balances, and validate for double-spending since there is no central server to do this. To steer away from this problem, Bitcoin uses every single entity of network to do this job. Every peer in the network have a list of all transactions to check if all the future transactions are valid, or block attempts for double spending. This is how Bitcoin works.

How Bitcoin Mining works?

How Bitcoin Mining works

Bitcoin mining isn’t mining at all. It doesn’t require any physical effort to find a Bitcoin because it doesn’t exist in the environment. It does, however, exist in the virtual world. Now that you understand how Bitcoin works, it is now time to understand how Bitcoin mining works. Every successful transaction is broadcasted in the network, and sent from one peer to another. Since Bitcoin doesn’t have a central server to validate these transactions, it will need more computers for mining (and more peers).

The word “mining” in Bitcoin mining actually means solving complicated mathematical problems with cryptographic hash functions which is associated with blocks containing the data of all transactions. It is called mining because solving every mathematical problem, users are rewarded with small amount of Bitcoin of their own. Bitcoin can only be created by solving these mathematical problems.

How Bitcoin Mining affects Global Warming?

Bitcoin’s energy usage is enormous. 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 which is the primary source of these gas emissions. Coal provides 57 percent of total energy harvested for electricity generation.

Bitcoin Mining affects Global Warming

According to a 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 degree 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. It is essential that emerging technologies like Bitcoin are developed and adopted with energy efficiency in mind.”

Katie Taladay, Researcher at University of Hawaii

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”

Randi Rollins, Researcher at University of Hawaii

How to Solve Bitcoin’s Climate Change Issue?

Due to its decentralized nature, it will be hard to stop the Bitcoin mining. But this concern is also an issue of other industries, not just the Bitcoin industry itself. If we continue releasing CO2 in the sky, the global temperature will continue to rise.

Industries should stop relying on fossil fuels such as coal for generating electricity. In fact, some countries already initiated this green movement. Countries like Iceland, Norway, Paraguay, and Costa Rica are already betting big on renewable energy. In fact, 100 percent of the electricity generated in Iceland, and Paraguay came from renewable source. In Costa Rica, it is 99 percent, while on Norway, it is 98.5 percent. As a result, these countries all belong to those that emits less CO2. If we also go all out with renewable source of energy, our future and the future of our world will be a lot brighter. Perhaps, bright enough to harness it as an energy.

FAQ’s

1. How long does it take to mine a Bitcoin?

It depend on the technology you are using to mine the bitcoin. On an average, One bitcoin is mined every 10 minutes.
If you are trying to mine bitcoin in your home then it could take years for you to mine a single bitcoin.

2. Can you mine Bitcoin on a phone?

Yes, you can mine a bitcoin on your android device. There are various apps like Crypto Miner, Easy Miner and many more which gives you a platform to mine bitcoin.
But, as mobile phones are not that powerful as compared to other mining hardwares, you will earn very less.

3. Is Bitcoin mining legal?

It depends on which country you are staying in. Some countries have declared Bitcoin as illegal. However, Bitcoin is Legal in countries like US, Canada, Australia and many European countries.

4. Does Bitcoin mining damage your computer?

Your system will get damage as it will overheat. It will degrade because of heavy components and heavy power usage.

5. How much electricity does bitcoin mining use?

Currently, Bitcoin mining consumes 0.29% of the world’s annual electricity. According to forbes, If you run an Antminer 24/7 for a year it will produce about 0.85 bitcoins, at a cost of about 15,000 kilowatt hours.

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