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Bitcoin Mining and Climate Change


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Bitcoin miners major costs are electricity and cooling afford buying the hardware. The miners are heavily invented to find the lowest possible cost of energy in existence.

With an incentive to lower the costs of mining, they are pushing the limits of using renewable resources at damns, solar, and wind. Beyond renewables you’re beginning to see smart use of miners working with energy companies to convert natural gas that has been getting flared (burned) and instead converting it to power mining equipment.

Does every miner do this? No. But it means that the industry is going to continue to push for renewables where the cost helps their business mode the most.

In the long run, a large majority of mining is going to be powered by environmentally friendly energy sources.

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"First of all, I think many of the counter arguments are basically whataboutism - what about gold, etc.

Bitcoin consumes about 80 Twh, and part of that is from fossil sources. It's not useful to try to deny this, because it's real world out there and the choice of the energy source has real consequences.

The world is becoming carbon neutral, so in consequence bitcoin mining will too be carbon neutral at some point. How quickly that happens is also in the hands of bitcoin mining operations.

Data centres and data transmission networks consume about 400 Twh (2019) - https://www.iea.org/reports/data-centres-and-data-transmission-networks

So, bitcoin is still less than that, but many of the large platforms are 100% renewable already. The problem is the same anyway - what is the source of energy.

The energy issue needs to be addressed transparently. Miners could take the initiative in their hands and start to openly publish consumption / energy source data.

Right now the data is incomplete, and the discussion is dominated by speculation based on incomplete data. This can best be countered with real and honest data, to show that the industry takes the issue seriously.

Besides, this would then perhaps make it possible to voluntarily pool mining resources based on sustainability, to grow the renewable share of the total energy consumption.

Anyway, it's not just helpful to come up with counter arguments, but the initiative of the issue and discussion / narrative needs be taken. The climate crisis is real, and to acknowledge and address that will help to tone down criticism.

This topic arises every time bitcoin pops in the public minds, and if it's not addressed it'll get politicised at some point. It will not just go away." - VIBR_339

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We must all drive electric cars to save the environment but using electricity to mine bitcoin will destroy the earth...

 

All of America's kitchen microwaves on standby use twice as much energy as bitcoin mining.

“Although we agree the amounts are ludicrous right now, that is still half as much as inactive home appliances in the U.S. consumed,” Rauchs said. The amount of energy wasted on idle home devices like phone chargers and microwaves in the U.S. could power the bitcoin network for two years.  Bitcoin’s wild ride renews worries about its massive carbon footprint

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Yassine Elmandjra provided 12 points to consider in response to articles such as this one.

1/ Bitcoin critics continue to assert that mining is wasteful and disproportionately damaging to the environment.

Contrary to consensus thinking, we believe the impact of bitcoin mining is a net positive for the environment.

Here's why:

2/ First, proof-of-work mining is critical to Bitcoin. In the Bitcoin network, trustworthiness is protected by computation, and mining is what gives Bitcoin its ability to coordinate trust and facilitate the transfer of value without relying on a centralized authority.

3/ The costliness to produce bitcoin is fundamental to its value.

Unlike the US dollar, Bitcoin cannot be printed with the stroke of a keyboard.

Instead, it converts the output from cheap stranded energy sources into something with monetary value.

4/ Even so, Bitcoin’s energy consumption is trivial compared to legacy financial systems. As measured by electricity costs alone, Bitcoin is much more efficient than traditional banking and gold mining on a global scale.

5/ Traditional banking consumes 2.34 B GJ/yr and gold mining 500 M GJ/yr, while Bitcoin consumes 184 M GJ/yr. Additionally, Bitcoin mining’s estimated $ cost / GJ expanded is 40X more efficient than that of traditional banking and 10X more efficient than gold mining.

6/ Another common mistake energy detractors make is to naively extrapolate Bitcoin’s energy consumption to the equivalent CO2 emissions. What matters is the type of energy source being used to generate electricity.

7/ In reality, renewables account for the largest percentage of bitcoin’s energy mix. In the search for the cheapest form of electricity, miners flock to regions offering a glut of renewable electricity, unlocking stranded energy assets.

8/ In some instances, Bitcoin mining is even helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by consuming methane that would have been leaked into the atmosphere via flaring.

9/ "That energy would have been wasted, as is evidenced by the existence of flare stacks. That gas is flared because it can't be brought to market. Bitcoin miners are incentivized to show up and consume that wasted energy."

10/ "If Bitcoin ends up being worth substantially more in the future Bitcoin’s energy expenditure may end up looking rather cheap in the final analysis."

11/ Coins only need to be issued once. And it’s better for the planet that they be issued when the coin price was low, and the electricity expended to extract them was commensurately low.

12/ In summary, Bitcoin does not waste energy. It is clear that because Bitcoin’s footprint is so easy to quantify, it is singled out for special treatment.

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