Bitcoin's Annual Carbon Footprint Is Equal to One Million Transatlantic Flights

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It turns out, it’s not just the Lamborghinis that Bitcoin enthusiasts seem to be obsessed with that are pumping CO2 into our atmosphere. Accruing the wealth itself is extremely wasteful, releasing 20 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year—as much as the whole Republic of Ireland.

Bitcoin mining is incredibly resource-intensive by design, forcing Bitcoin miners to get creative about where they get their energy, including going to Canada. Put simply, mining works such that the more energy you burn, the faster your computer can commutate, so the more likely you are to “win” Bitcoins. A mining operation may only gain a dozen Bitcoins, but with the currency currently valued (as of this writing) at $6,422 each, a few is all you need to justify a huge demand of energy.


A report from Credit Suisse in January found that somewhere around 80 percent of miners’ winnings are invested back into electricity consumption, according to The Guardian.

Should Bitcoin reach $50,000 or each unit, or over five times its current rate, energy usage dedicated to mining would shoot up ten-fold. Should it ever hit $1.1 million, then it would theoretically be profitable to use all of the electricity currently generate on the planet to mine Bitcoin alone.


Now, Bitcoin reaching even $50,000 a unit seems implausible, but it certainly looks like the problem is getting worse, not better, no matter where Bitcoin’s value goes. Remember, you have to mine competing crypto currencies as well, and that all adds up. The fact that crypto mining isn’t regulated like transportation emissions is unreal.

[h/t Luke Savage]