Science & Technology

Bitcoins generate as much CO2 as Bengaluru or Chennai

Bitcoin mining — computing capacity used in the production — was the highest in Asia (68 per cent)

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Friday 14 June 2019
Photo: Getty Images

Increased use of electricity in the production and transaction of bitcoins generate carbon dioxide (CO2) between 22 and 22.9 megatonnes per year, which is similar to cities like Bengaluru and Chennai that emit more than 21 million tonnes of the harmful greenhouse gas, according to a study.

Until November 2018, the annual electricity consumption by Bitcoin was estimated to be about 46 Terawatt-hour (TWh), revealed the study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Bitcoin mining — computing capacity used in the production — was the highest in Asia (68 per cent), followed by European countries (17 per cent) and North America (15 per cent).

“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 especially carbon-intensive,” said Christian Stoll, who conducts research at the TUM and the MIT.

For the study, the team calculated the power consumption of the network by examining the mandatory initial public offering filings of hardware manufacturers and IP addresses of bitcoin “miners”.

Besides, they also mapped people who use ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) — a microchip specially designed for mining.

The teams also explored large-scale mining “farms” set up by professional operators, as “extra energy is needed just for the cooling of the (such) data centre”, Stoll noted.

The production of bitcoin or mining involves mathematical puzzles that requires lot of computing power that increases CO2 emissions and causes an additional burden on the climate.

“To improve the ecological balance, one possibility might be to link more mining farms to additional renewable generating capacity,” Stoll suggested.

According to the Emissions Gap Report 2018, global greenhouse emissions show no sign of peaking. It reached a record high 53.5 gigatonnes (Gt CO2) of equivalent carbon dioxide in 2017. 

In 2018, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose 1.7 per cent to a historic high of 33.1 Gt CO2, said an International Energy Agency report.

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