Bitcoin emissions alone could push global warming above 2°C

Bitcoin emissions alone could push global warming above 2°C

SOURCE: Nature.com DATE: October 29, 2018 SNIP: Reducing emissions to keep warming below 2 °C is already regarded as a very difficult challenge given the increasing human population and consumption as well as a lack of political will. Then came Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a decentralized cashless payment system introduced in early 2009, and it is now accepted by over 100,000 merchants and vendors worldwide. Each transaction paid for with Bitcoin is compiled into a ‘block’ that requires a computationally demanding proof-of-work to be resolved, which in turn uses large amounts of electricity. Globally, ~314.2 billion cashless transactions are carried out every year, of which Bitcoin’s share was ~0.033% in 2017. The environmental concern regarding Bitcoin usage arises from the large carbon footprint for such a small share of global cashless transactions, and the potential for it to be more broadly used under current technologies. Bitcoin usage has experienced an accelerated growth (Supplementary Fig. 1), which is a common pattern during the early adoption of broadly used technologies. Should Bitcoin follow the median growth trend observed in the adoption of several other technologies (Fig. 1b), it could equal the global total of cashless transactions in under 100 years. Yet, the cumulative emissions of such usage growth could fall within the range of emissions likely to warm the planet by 2°C within only 16 years (red line in Fig. 1b). The cumulative emissions of Bitcoin usage will cross the 2°C threshold within 22 years if the current rate is similar to some of the slowest broadly adopted technologies, or within 11 years if adopted at the fastest rate at which other...
Bitcoin’s energy use got studied, and you libertarian nerds look even worse than usual

Bitcoin’s energy use got studied, and you libertarian nerds look even worse than usual

SOURCE: Grist DATE: May 17, 2018 SNIP: Bitcoin’s energy footprint has more than doubled since Grist first wrote about it six months ago. It’s expected to double again by the end of the year, according to a new peer-reviewed study out Wednesday. And if that happens, bitcoin would be gobbling up 0.5 percent of the world’s electricity, about as much as the Netherlands. That’s a troubling trajectory, especially for a world that should be working overtime to root out energy waste and fight climate change. By late next year, bitcoin could be consuming more electricity than all the world’s solar panels currently produce — about 1.8 percent of global electricity, according to a simple extrapolation of the study’s predictions. That would effectively erase decades of progress on renewable energy. Beyond its tentative success as a get-rich-quick scheme, bitcoin has an increasingly real-world cost. The process of “mining” for coins requires a globally distributed computer network racing to solve math problems — and also helps keep any individual transaction confidential and tamper-proof. That, in turn, requires an ever-escalating arms race of computing power — and electricity use — which, at the moment, has no end in sight. A single bitcoin transaction is so energy intensive that it could power the average U.S. household for a month. It’s a telling social phenomenon of late capitalism that we are willing to construct elaborate computer networks to conduct secure transactions with each other — and in the process torpedoing our hopes at a clean energy...
In Iceland, bitcoin mining will soon use more energy than its residents

In Iceland, bitcoin mining will soon use more energy than its residents

SOURCE: The Guardian and Ars Technica DATE: 13 February, 2018 SNIP: Bitcoin’s price may be down more than 50% from its highs in December, but no one has told Iceland, where the cryptocurrency and its offspring are reshaping the economy. According to Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson, an employee of the energy company HS Orka, Icelandic cryptocurrency “mining” is likely to double its energy consumption to about 100 megawatts this year. That is more than households use in the nation of 340,000 people, according to the national energy authority. Mining is the name for the decentralised process that underpins the integrity of most cryptocurrencies. Effectively, a bunch of computers engage in a race to burn through the most electricity possible and, every 10 minutes, one wins a prize of 12.5 bitcoin for the effort – still worth more than $100,000, despite recent falls. As the price of bitcoin has risen, so too has the amount of electricity that it is economical to use in order to get the rewards. One recent estimate pegged the energy consumption of the entire network as equivalent to that of the Republic of Ireland. Bitcoin-mining operations are set to overtake domestic residential energy consumption in Iceland later this year, according to a local energy company. As a result, one lawmaker is considering what could or should happen if Iceland continues to expand its role as a major bitcoin-mining hub. “We are spending tens or maybe hundreds of megawatts on producing something that has no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation,” Smári McCarthy, and Icelandic member of parliament told...