The rising popularity of Bitcoin mining is inadvertently wreaking havoc on the environment, making it a prime example of the worst kind of mining with its significant carbon footprint and energy consumption.
Mining resources from our planet has long been recognized as a destructive practice that takes a toll on the environment. From deforestation to water pollution, the negative impacts of mining are widespread and far-reaching. But there is one type of mining that is particularly damaging to Earth’s environment: Bitcoin mining.
Bitcoin mining involves using a significant amount of computing power to solve complex puzzles that underpin the cryptocurrency industry. With each Bitcoin currently valued at over $34,000, the potential for profit has attracted many to engage in this activity. However, the environmental consequences are alarming.
A recent study published in Earth’s Future revealed some staggering statistics about the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining. In 2020-21, Bitcoin mining consumed more electrical power than the entire country of Pakistan, home to a population of 230 million people. The sources of this power release over 85 megatons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the emissions of 190 natural gas power plants or approximately 5 Yellowstone calderas.
The environmental impact extends beyond carbon emissions. If the power used for Bitcoin mining comes from hydropower, it leads to the loss of 1.65 cubic kilometers of fresh water, which is more than the domestic water use of over 330 million people in rural sub-Saharan Africa. If the power comes from biofuels, it requires almost 1,900 square kilometers of land, larger than the state of Rhode Island.
The countries responsible for the highest energy consumption for Bitcoin mining are not surprising: China and the United States. However, other countries like Kazakhstan, Russia, Malaysia, Iran, Ireland, and Singapore also rank among the top ten power users. This means that 45% of the power used for Bitcoin mining comes from coal, the worst contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.
The consequences of Bitcoin mining extend to water usage as well. Iran, already facing water scarcity issues, used over 19 million cubic meters of water for Bitcoin mining in 2020-21. This accounts for nearly 20% of the country’s domestic water use per year, solely for energy production for Bitcoin.
As Bitcoin prices rise, so does the power consumed for mining. When Bitcoin prices increased by 400% in 2021, the electric usage for mining surged by 140%. This sudden increase in energy consumption can strain already overburdened electrical grids.
The question arises: is Bitcoin mining worth the cost? While some corporations, banks, and countries advocate for the expansion of cryptocurrencies, little consideration has been given to the environmental impacts. The accumulation and exchange of Bitcoin come at the expense of our planet’s climate and environment.
It is crucial for governments to step in and regulate Bitcoin mining, just as they do with traditional mining practices. The same assessments and permissions required for opening physical mines should be applied to Bitcoin mining. The world must prioritize the preservation of our planet’s climate and environment over personal or corporate wealth. The emerging cryptocurrency markets should not exploit the Earth’s resources in the same destructive manner as traditional mining practices.
The time has come for stringent regulations and safeguards to be implemented in the realm of Bitcoin mining. The environmental consequences are too significant to be ignored, and it is our responsibility to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.