Bitcoin Mining Consumes More Electricity than Many Countries, UN Study Finds
Global mining of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin consumes more electricity than several populous countries, including Pakistan, according to a new study by the United Nations (UN). The findings highlight the significant impact of Bitcoin on the environment and climate due to its heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
Led by Kaveh Madani from the Institute for Water, Environment and Health at the United Nations University in Hamilton, Canada, a team of researchers estimated that over 135 terawatt hours (TWh) will be required for bitcoin mining worldwide in 2023. These forecasts, derived from July data, underscore the magnitude of electricity consumption associated with the cryptocurrency.
The creation of bitcoins, often referred to as digital gold, is based on blockchain technology. Miners verify each transaction and generate a data block that is added to the blockchain. However, this process demands massive amounts of electricity due to the high levels of computation involved.
The study, published in the journal Earth’s Future, analyzed data from the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index to identify the countries with the highest contributions to the environmental footprints of global Bitcoin mining. Among the top contributors were China, the US, Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Ireland, Iran, Thailand, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, and the UK.
Between 2020 and 2021, Bitcoin mining consumed 173 TWh worldwide, representing a 60% increase compared to the previous two-year period from 2018 to 2019. Alarmingly, the researchers discovered that 67% of the electricity used during the 2020-2021 period came from fossil fuel sources.
While hydropower accounted for approximately 16% of the electricity demand and served as the most significant renewable energy source for Bitcoin mining, the study highlights the considerable water footprint associated with these activities. The researchers estimated that global Bitcoin mining activities consumed around 1.65 cubic kilometers of water during the 2020-2021 period. To put this in perspective, this amount is more than the domestic water use of 300 million people in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.
Moreover, the study revealed that Bitcoin mining was responsible for emitting approximately 86 million tonnes of CO2 worldwide during the same period. These findings underscore the urgent need for more sustainable practices within the cryptocurrency industry.
As the demand for Bitcoin continues to grow, the environmental impact of its mining activities becomes an increasingly pressing concern. Efforts to transition to more sustainable energy sources, such as renewable energy, will be crucial in mitigating the adverse effects of Bitcoin mining on the environment and climate. This study serves as a wake-up call for both policymakers and the cryptocurrency industry to address these environmental challenges and promote more environmentally friendly practices.
More detail via The Star here… ( Image via The Star )