Blockchains can cut both ways in their impact on global warming
Cryptocurrencies are power hogs but their underlying technology can aid our climate action agenda
Searing heatwaves and wildfires across the world are bringing home the harsh impact of global warming and the Anthropocene era. However, one of the purported reasons for the warming, cryptocurrencies, have been plunging in value. The top causes of global warming are very much real-life ones and not crypto related—cement construction, deforestation, fossil fuel use, etc. However, there has been a disproportionate amount of noise on how Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are fuelling climate change. One key trigger was a report, Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, by the Centre for Alternative Finance at the University of Cambridge. It shocked crypto fans and delighted cryptosceptics by calculating that Bitcoin mining alone used up more energy than Belgium and Finland (bit.ly/3cpu86E). According to Digiconomist, Ethereum gobbled up as much power as Switzerland. There is more: the Bitcoin network generates huge amounts of carbon dioxide, as much as Turkmenistan, and Ethereum’s CO2 emissions rival New Zealand’s. As if this was not enough, the obsolete ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) mining equipment that crypto miners use produces a colossal 36,000 tonnes of electronic waste every year.