It’s no secret that Bitcoin is hated by many mainstream economists and politicians.
While their cited reasons for hating Bitcoin vary wildly — some call it a purely speculative market, others say cryptocurrencies are only useful for crime — the seemingly most oft-cited critique of this innovation is that it is “killing the Earth.”
From an outsider’s perspective, this angle makes sense: to keep the Bitcoin network running, users are mandated to set up mining machines, which use an absurd amount of computing power to put blocks of transactions into a chain — hence blockchain.
Though, a recent study has found that the assertion that Bitcoin is single-handedly killing the Earth is false — at least for now anyway.
Bitcoin Not Killing the World… Yet
Whether you believe in it or not, climate change has quickly become a mainstream topic. And somehow, Bitcoin has found itself caught up in it. As reported by Blockonomi, Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of major cloud computing and virtual machine company VMWare, told Fortune Magazine earlier this year that BTC is a threat to humanity due to its high level of energy consumption.
In fact, he suggested that it is an active contributor to the ongoing “climate crisis” that many scientists and politicians actively discuss:
“It takes the energy of a home, half-a-home a day, to do a single entry into a Bitcoin ledger.”
A study from researchers at the University of Cambridge corroborated this. Their analysis suggested that Bitcoin consumes around 64 TWh or terawatt-hours of energy consumption each and every year — this amounts to about 0.25% of the world’s annual electricity consumption, which may seem quite ludicrous.
Though, a new report suggests that the 64 TWh/year estimate is false. Susanne Köhler and Massimo Pizzol at Aalborg University in Denmark found that if you break down Bitcoin’s energy consumption estimate by region, factoring in the use of renewables like hydro and such, the calculated footprint is smaller than the previous estimates by 75%.
This lines up with a report from CoinShares published earlier this year. The investment and research firm found that renewable energy is involved in 77.6% of total Bitcoin mining, citing the concentration of renewable energies in areas where Bitcoin miners are, namely China, Iceland, the west coast of the U.S., and the west coast of Canada. The assertion here, of course, is that hydropower creates barely any energy emissions when pitted against coal plants and such.
Even if Bitcoin was consuming a fair portion of the Earth’s power resources, some say it wouldn’t be wasteful. Below is a tweet from legendary Bitcoin proponent and educator Andreas Antonopoulos published just before Christmas in 2016.
In it, the Greek-British technologist remarked that holiday lights surrounding the trees and homes of millions across the globe use “more energy in a week than [entire] small nations,” before rhetorically asking “who’s wasteful?”
His implication here is that Bitcoin miners using electricity to power immutable, global, decentralized, rapid, and censorship-resistant transactions is relatively better than American consumers lighting up their homes for holiday celebrations.
Tis the time of year to discuss "wasting energy". Bitcoin mining? No, Xmas lights. More energy in a week than small nations. Who's wasteful?
— Andreas (aantonop) (@aantonop) December 20, 2016
Popular macro analyst and industry commentator Alex Krüger echoed this line. He recently posted the tweet below, in which he quipped that those watching adult videos are estimated to consume upwards of six times more energy each year than Bitcoin, before asking “how often do you hear people complain about porn’s huge carbon dioxide emissions?”
Bitcoin carbon footprint: 22 megatonnes of CO2 /year
Porn streaming carbon footprint: 140 megatonnes of CO2/year
… how often do you hear people complain about porn's huge carbon dioxide emissions?
— Alex Krüger (@krugermacro) November 20, 2019