The global bitcoin network currently consumes about 110 terawatt-hours of electricity annually through mining, roughly equal to what is consumed by the nation of Argentina. That statistic sounds frightening but is it? A historical study from Our World in Data found that of the greatest contributing factors to climate change, Bitcoin accounts for only 0.13% of annual carbon emissions. So how bad is Bitcoin really?
Proponents of cryptocurrency say that Bitcoin’s energy consumption is often misrepresented to suggest cryptocurrency is damaging to the environment. Energy consumption and carbon emissions are two very different things. And while they may be correlated, emissions are determined by the type of energy used, not the quantity. Bitcoin mining largely uses electricity generated from renewable sources like hydropower – and initiatives like the Crypto Climate Accord are committing crypto producers to go completely net zero by 2040.
But environmentalists say that mining is still a cause for concern particularly because cryptocurrencies are only in their infancy. Greater demand and higher prices will lead to more miners competing to solve puzzles in the fastest time to earn Bitcoin and other crypto tokens, and that will only increase the network’s energy requirements. Crypto miners are likely to go wherever electricity is cheapest and for now that means countries that use cheap fossil fuels like coal.
So is crypto a force against nature? Or can it go green? Join the debate, hear the arguments and decide for yourself.