WASHINGTON — Researchers at the Technical University of Munich and Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that a cryptocurrency’s carbon emissions each year could measure up to the total emissions of a city like Las Vegas or a small nation.
The study published in the latest edition of journal Joule found that the use of Bitcoin caused at least 22 megatons in carbon dioxide emissions annually, ranking between those of Jordan and Sri Lanka.
This is the first detailed analysis of Bitcoin’s carbon footprint based on empirical data from IPO filings and the IP addresses of Bitcoin “miners.”
Bitcoin is a kind of blockchain technology-based virtual currency gained by the Bitcoin “miners” who solve puzzles in any arbitrary computer in Bitcoin’s global network.
The cryptocurrency is imposing increasing burden on global climate since its computing capacity required to solve a Bitcoin puzzle increased more than fourfold in 2018, according to the study.
The researchers used IPO filings disclosed in 2018 by all major hardware manufacturers to determine the power efficiencies of machines used by them, and then calculated the power usage. They found that the annual electricity consumption by Bitcoin, as of November 2018, totaled about 45.8 terawatt hours.
Then, they used IP addresses to determine carbon emissions from power sources used by Bitcoin miners in different locations. Finally, they figured out the carbon footprint based on its total power consumption and estimates from different emissions scenarios.
The findings are that the Bitcoin’s annual carbon emissions range between 22 and 22.9 megatons.
Also, the energy consumption would almost double if all other cryptocurrencies are included, according to the study.
“We do not question the efficiency gains that blockchain technology could, in certain cases, provide,” said Christian Stoll, the paper’s corresponding author and a researcher at the Technical University of Munich. “More attention needs to be given to costs.”
Stoll said one solution is “to link more mining farms to additional renewable generating capacity to improve the ecological balance.”