Bitcoin’s soaring popularity could have a long-lasting negative effect on the environment.
But just how much is bitcoin mining contributing to global warming?
In China alone, bitcoin is projected to generate more than 130 million metric tons of carbon emissions by the time the technology’s energy consumption peaks in 2024.
That amount of greenhouse gases would have surpassed the total annual emissions output from the Czech Republic and Qatar in 2016. The bitcoin blockchain could consume as much energy per year as small to medium-sized countries such as Denmark, Ireland, or Bangladesh, according to research from Sinan Kufeogl, civil engineering research associate at the University of Cambridge.
As bitcoin has grown in popularity, China has become a mecca for technology. If China’s bitcoin industry were a country, its total energy consumption would have ranked 12th globally in 2016, ahead of major economies like Italy and Saudi Arabia, according to the study.
With specialized hardware and cheap electricity readily available, the country now accounts for more than 75% of the bitcoin network’s hashing power — the power a computer or hardware uses to run and solve algorithms that generate new cryptocurrency sums and allow transactions between them.
“Since the bitcoin mining industry is so new, it has not been properly accounted for and regulated around the world,” Shouyang Wang, a co-author of the study and professor at Chinese Academy of Sciences,
Bitcoin mining hardware has evolved as the cryptocurrency’s popularity has increased over time. At its inception, bitcoin mining went through a basic Central Processing Unit (CPU) on a general-purpose computer,