Erik Klemetti, DiscoverMagazine.com, October 30, 2023,
Mining resources from our planet can take a devastating toll on the environment, both local and global. Even beyond this, using the resource could cause disastrous effects to our planet and dependence on a single resource can wreak havoc on a country’s economy. Yet, many of these resources are needed for our daily life — sometimes as a luxury, sometimes as a necessity. Any responsible country or company should always take pause to consider what impact mining of any kind can have on the planet.
It turns out that these days, one type of mining might be the worst for Earth’s environment: bitcoins. Yes, the “mining” of virtual currency makes its mark on the our planet. The unequal distribution of Bitcoin mining across the globe means that some countries are making a much large dent into the planet’s climate and environment than others … all for a “resource” that is far from necessary for our society.
Bitcoin mining using a lot of computing power to solve the crypographic puzzles that lie at the heart of the industry. As of today (October 30, 2023), each Bitcoin is worth over $34,000 and with the multitude of other cryptocoins out there, using computers to unlock more can be a profitable endeavor. Almost half a trillion dollars of the global economy runs on these “virtual currencies”.
What is the Environmental Impact of Bitcoin Mining?
Rarely do people who mine Bitcoins stop to ponder the environmental impact of their “extraction.” A new study by Sanaz Chamanara and others in Earth’s Future, a journal from the American Geophysical Union, lays out some of the startling numbers that come from Bitcoin mining.
Here are some of the most eye-popping:
- In 2020-21, Bitcoin mining consumed more electrical power than the country of Pakistan (population: 230 million).
- The sources of this electrical power released over 85 megatons of carbon dioxide. That’s the same as 190 natural gas power plants or ~5 Yellowstone calderas. This is based on the actual carbon dioxide emitted by the different styles of generation, so this isn’t a maximum value.