A bitcoin may equal to about 6.5 lakhs Indian rupees; the bitcoin transaction process might be projected as the safest and a transparent mode of transaction worldwide, but the process is one of the largest carbon-emitting processes, a new study reports.
According to the study published in the journal Joule published by Cell Press, the annual electricity consumption of bitcoin network is about 45.8 TWh (terra watt hour) and the annual carbon emission by this process is about 22 to 23 Mega tonnes. This amount of carbon emission is equivalent to the emission produced by nations like Jordan or Sri Lanka and comparable to the level of Kansas City.
The research carried out by researchers from Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany and MIT, USA, carried out a detailed calculation of the carbon footprint of the bitcoin system.
What Causes the Massive Carbon Emission?
The bitcoin transaction system involves a huge worldwide network of computers. The hallmark of this system is the Block Chain Validation process, which is an open process carried out via computer networks. Any transaction made through this process is executed and validated through the computer networks and in this process, a mathematical puzzle must be solved by any arbitrary computer in the global bitcoin network. The network can be joined by anyone and rewards the puzzle solver in bitcoins.
Here lies the problem. For the puzzle solving, called the bitcoin mining, one needs a heavy computer hardware infrastructure. And it is this computer infrastructure that consumes huge electricity and resultantly emits massive carbon. The bitcoin mining network has swelled in recent years, only in 2018, it quadrupled. With the increase in bitcoin network, is therefore questioned of imposing an additional burden on the climate.
There have been several studies conducted to estimate the carbon emissions caused by bitcoin mining. Christian Stoll, the lead author of the study who conducts the research at TUM and MIT, said: “These studies are based on a number of approximations, however.”
The team began by calculating the power consumption by the network. This calculation primarily depends on the hardware used for bitcoin mining. Their estimation tells the soaring 46 TWh electricity consumption as of November 2018. The team’s live tracking data from the mining pools provided with the information of how much energy is emitted by carbon dioxide is emitted with the use of this energy.
Their data revealed that 68% of the bitcoin network is located in the Asian countries, 17% in European countries and 15% in North America. The bitcoin network has a carbon footprint of almost 23 mega tonnes per year, which is comparable to the footprint of cities like Vienna, Hamburg, Las Vegas.
“Naturally there are bigger factors contributing to climate change. However, the carbon footprint is big enough to make it worth discussing the possibility of regulating cryptocurrency mining in regions where power generation is specially carbon intensive. To improve the ecological balance, one possibility might be to link more mining farms to additional renewable generating capacity”—said Stoll.