A recent study compared the negative impact of Bitcoin mining to that of cattle farming and burning gasoline.
According to a report by Bloomberg, researchers at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque have found that Bitcoin mining’s impact on the climate is comparable to other negative influences, such as farming cattle and gasoline burning, when taken as a proportion of market value.
The report notes that most of the electricity used in Bitcoin’s energy-intensive process comes from the consumption of “planet-warming fossil fuels.” Researchers found that the climate-related economic damage caused by mining Bitcoin exceeded its market value on 6.4% percent of trading days between 2016 and 2021.
The study, published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, compared the climate cost of mining BTC against its average market price to other commodities, such as gold, crude oil and beef. The climate impact of mining gold was found to be 4% of its average market price during the five year period, compared to Bitcoin’s 35% during that same timespan. The report notes that the environmental impact of crypto mining has grown with the industry’s maturity, raising concerns over its long-term sustainability.
The researchers wrote,
While proponents have offered (Bitcoin) as representing ‘digital gold,’ from a climate damages perspective it operates more like ‘digital crude.
The report claimed that Bitcoin mining consumed more energy globally than either Austria or Portugal did in 2020. Researchers found that mining emissions for a single Bitcoin in 2021 were the equivalent of 113 metric tons of CO2, more than 126 times that of a BTC mined in 2016 due to the scaling mining difficulty. The paper estimated that the economic damage for each Bitcoin mined last year amounted to $11,314, with total climate damages as high as $12 billion for all BTC mined between 2016 and 2021.
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