With stats being brought up that Bitcoin’s Network uses as much electricity as a number of small to medium countries, debates have been raging about its impact on the environment. However, it has never been a cut and dry debate, and even the data presented in the arguments cannot be exact.
Many have argued that Bitcoin should be aiming to change its proof-of-work algorithm to lessen its global impact on the environment, but then others say that its impact is not big enough to warrant such changes.
For example, Bitcoin is targeted for its energy consumption, but, in comparison to the global financial ecosystem, which encompasses bank buildings, mints, and financial sectors across the globe – the usage wouldn’t even compare.
Then, there is a suggestion that Bitcoin alone could heat the planet by as much as 2 degrees celsius. Yet, the problem remains in the inaccuracy in recording just how much hash power there is and just how much electricity is being used – and, indeed, what type of electricity is being used.
Another side to the coin has been recently announced as research from Susanne Köhler and Massimo Pizzol at Aalborg University in Denmark found that earlier estimates had made blanket assumptions that carbon emissions in Bitcoin mining.
The research looked into the types of power that were being used to mine Bitcoin in certain areas, and taking China as a key example as the country accounts for 47 percent of Bitcoin’s carbon emissions, they could see a pattern.
For example, coal-heavy Inner Mongolia accounted for just 12.3 percent of Bitcoin mining, but it was produced by and far the biggest carbon footprint. This was further perpetuated where the hydroelectric area of Sichuan had a lower footprint than New York state in the US.
The research is not intended to be a free pass for Bitcoin to keep burning through electricity, but it does point out that the type of electricity Bitcoin craves is usually cheaper and more renewable than first thought with blanket comments.
“On the one hand we have these alarmist voices saying we won’t hit the Paris agreement because of bitcoin only. But on the other hand there are a lot of voices from the Bitcoin community saying that most of the mining is done with green energy and that it’s not high impact,” Köhler says.