Global warming is a reality. You do not have to take my word for it. Use NASA’s. Bitcoin’s impact on it, however, is far from certain. Why? The technology is barely ten years old, it is constantly changing how it works and mass adoption only somewhat started in 2017.
Now, some people claim that Bitcoin can cause a huge environmental damage. Is that true? In order for you to decide for yourself, we present the arguments here.
New Study Claims That Bitcoin Will Make Global Warming Worse
A new study from climate change scientists has put Bitcoin on the spot as it affirms that Bitcoin is very power-hungry and that it is increasingly being used as a payment system, which can cause the global temperature to rise 2°C within the next three decades.
The article uses a projection from the adoption of Bitcoin in the next years together with an analysis of its energy consumption to affirm that. Bitcoin, according to the study, was responsible for 0.033% of all the cashless transactions last year but the number might increase considerably in the future.
By using a mathematical theory developed by the researchers, Bitcoin is “accused” of being able to be used in as many cashless transactions as today alone in 100 years. While the study acknowledges that accelerated growth is normal at the beginning of each technology, they still claim that it can be increased.
Here is the problem: is the Bitcoin use simply continues as today in the next 22 years, it could make the temperature of the Earth rise 2°C in 22 years. The formula used was as follows:
“60 percent of the economic return of the Bitcoin transaction verification process goes to electricity, at $0.05 per kWh and 0.7 kg of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) emitted per kWh, [resulting in an] estimate that Bitcoin usage emits 33.5 metric tons of CO2e annually, as of May 2018.”
If the miners were to use renewable energy, they could solve the issue, but the study affirms that these forms of energy are still very expensive to use and miners will look for profit. More efficient hardware could also diminish how much energy is used but the study advises against relying on hardware that does not exist yet.
The solution, according to the developers, could be in adding more transactions per block or reducing the difficulty of mining or its time.
Some Experts Do Not Believe That Bitcoin Will Cause Global Warming
Obviously, not everybody believes in these predictions. ThinkProgress has interviewed three experts that talked about the issue and on how Bitcoin is simply… not going to destroy the world.
Bear in mind that ThinkProgress is a website that covers the rise of the Far Right in the world and issues like white nationalism, so they are not the common kind of folks that affirm that “global warming does not exist”.
One of the experts interviewed by the media outlet is Jon Koomey from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and has 20 years of career. He affirms that energy calculations are very complicated and that it is not a good idea to extrapolate the recent growth rates for the future.
He called the study “irresponsible and misleading” and affirmed that no analyst should extrapolate so much in order to shape the reality as he wants to. While Bitcoin mining is very energy intensive, there are simply too many studies disagreeing on how much energy it actually needs for each transaction and how it will scale.
Eric Masanet, a mechanical engineer who works at the Energy and Resource Systems Analysis Lab of the Northwestern University, has spotted three flaws in the study. He affirms that the study ignores two trends: the global power sector is decarbonizing and crypto mining is becoming more efficient. Ignoring this, he believes, would highly inflate the final result.
Also, he affirms that there is no guarantee that such a tremendous growth will actually happen and that this is speculation.
Arman Shehabi from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has the opinion that the study is wrong in believing that Bitcoin will remain spending so much energy for 100 years while it goes through rapid adoption at the same time. Because of this, it would be simply absurd to assume things this way.
Bitcoin And Global Warming: The Verdict
Will Bitcoin destroy the world? Not likely and surely not alone. The main issue from the whole conversation is to give Bitcoin so much focus. In less than a decade, Bitcoin has changed a lot and it will certainly change again.
It makes no sense to believe that no new technology will appear but that Bitcoin will see mass adoption. Problems in efficiency are exactly part of the reason why Bitcoin is not so popular right now. If it intends to become widely used, the technology has to take its good core and improve upon it.
Will Bitcoin cause global warming? If it is really popular, yes, it probably will, but it will not do it alone. Non-renewable energy sources are the issue here, not Bitcoin. Attacking it seems like the wrong choice. Sure, it could spend less energy and it will have to improve in order to “dominate the world”, but there many other “villains” here which are protected when you just look at Bitcoin.
If you are worried about global warming, there are simply no easy answers and witch hunts will not be effective. The whole structure of the world has to change to prevent it and, little by little, a lot of experts are doing their best, so it is not a wise decision to put all the weight over a new technology instead of the whole system we have for more than 100 years.