Bitcoin mining would have environmental implications comparable more to the impact of the extraction and refining of crude oil rather than that of gold. According to researchers from the University of New Mexico according to their most recent study published in Scientific Reports. For this reason, Bitcoins should be compared to energy-intensive activities.
“We find no evidence that Bitcoin mining is becoming more sustainable over time,” said Benjamin A. Jones, professor at UNM Economics. “Rather, our findings suggest otherwise: Bitcoin mining is becoming more damaging to the climate. In short, Bitcoin’s environmental footprint is moving in the wrong direction. “
As of December 2021, Bitcoin had a market capitalization of around US $ 960 billion with a market share among cryptocurrencies of around 41%. It is not possible to accurately determine the environmental impacts deriving from the energy consumption necessary for Bitcoin mining, but it can be defined as an energy-intensive activity.
According to the new study, in 2020 Bitcoin mining required 75.4 terawatt hours of electricity (TWh), a higher electricity consumption than that of the whole of Austria (69.9 TWh) or Portugal (48, 4 TWh) in that year. “Globally, mining or manufacturing Bitcoin uses huge amounts of electricity, which is produced mainly from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. This is leading to air pollution and carbon emissions, which negatively impact our global climate and environment. our health, “Jones said.
The authors also stated that according to their studies, the equivalent CO2 emissions caused by the production of the electricity required for mining increased 126 times from 0.9 tons for each cryptocurrency “mined” in 2016 to 113 tons in 2021. The damage caused by Bitcoin mining in the period from 2016 to 2021 is estimated at about 12 billion dollars.
“Our focus is on those cryptocurrencies that rely on Proof of Work (POW) techniques, which can be energy-intensive,” said Regents economics professor Robert Berrens. “As part of broader efforts to mitigate climate change, the political challenge is to create governance mechanisms for an emerging, decentralized industry that regulates energy-intensive POW cryptocurrencies. We need empirical data relating to potentially unsustainable climate damage to be expressed in monetary terms ”.