Mass Bitcoin Adoption Could Warm the Planet by Two Degrees

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Bitcoin could be responsible for “catastrophic climate change”, could “kill the planet” and may turn out to be “more costly than we ever expected” according to some sensational headlines this week. These headlines were a result of a report by journal Nature Climate Change, released on the 10th anniversary of the Bitcoin whitepaper, which claimed that the carbon dioxide emissions produced by mining the cryptocurrency could push global temperatures up by two degrees Celsius by 2033, causing huge damage to the planet. Whilst these headlines were food and drink to anti-Bitcoin outlets, they chose to ignore a number of crucial factors which could easily invalidate their claims.

Internet, Electricity…Bitcoin?

Bitcoin needs to be adopted at the same rate as “other broadly adopted technologies” if the headline figure of two degrees by 2033 is to be hit. This would mean Bitcoin seeing similar levels of adoption as the refrigerator, the television, the internet, and the telephone, which, whilst not impossible, is a long way off. Even if cryptocurrencies did become a global medium of exchange, with so many coins in existence performing different functions it is highly unlikely that Bitcoin, or any single coin for that matter, would be adopted to the required levels for the entire time period.

Technological Innovation

The report also ignores the advances in technology of Bitcoin mining equipment and developments by the likes of NASA to capture and convert CO2 to something less harmful. Fifteen years is an incredibly long time in terms of technological innovation, especially with the issue of climate change already high on political agendas and billions being spent on research to deal with it. Along with this, many proof-of-work coins are already switching to proof-of-stake, and there is no reason to suggest that Bitcoin might not move to a similar system in that time. The article also doesn’t take into account that increased Bitcoin adoption would not demand increasing mining requirements, and that changes to the code are already underway to allow increased adoption without the need for extra hardware.

Same Old Story

Bitcoin is often an easy target for media outlets owned by those who have a stake in the existing financial system, so it’s no surprise to see negative headlines like these. Those with a stake in cryptocurrency however can only hope that the tide begins to turn as it has in some quarters, and that developments in the space can start to silence the doubts and bring about a fairer and more sensible level of reporting.