The ‘mining’ of cryptocurrencies (that is, completing the mathematical equations that serve as proof of work to earn the currency) is consuming huge quantities of energy, estimated at 0.3% of the world’s electrical demand.
Computing power allied to the electrical fans and air conditioning systems required to stop the systems overheating are energy intensive apparatus that are generating significant carbon dioxide emissions. Bitcoin, for example, is expected to use just over 42TWh of electricity in a year, placing it ahead of New Zealand and Hungary and just behind Peru, according to estimates from Digiconomist. That’s commensurate with CO2 emissions of 20 megatonnes – or roughly 1m transatlantic flights!
Energy demand (and therefore carbon dioxide emissions) is inherent in the process of gaining Bitcoin riches as a consequence of the operation known as “mining”. Bitcoin mining is effectively a competition to waste the most electricity possible by doing pointless arithmetic which has no worth in the real world.
There is growing pressure to provide less energy intense mining options and enhanced computing technologies whilst the cost of the electrical energy required to mine the currency may itself limit the impact of cryptocurrencies, but in the meantime this wasteful process is simply increasing the world’s emissions just when we ought to everything in our power to limit the consequences of manmade climate change.