A study published in Nature claims that Bitcoin's adoption will cause the earth's temperature to rise past a crucial warming threshold.
The highly-acclaimed research journal Nature just recently published an alarming study on Monday that claims that Bitcoin may push the planet past its meltdown point with its electrical consumption.
The study cited the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goals for global warming as a reference point for the temperature rise. As for the CO2 required to achieve that, the study’s authors used earth system model projections to find correlations in temperature increases and atmospheric concentrations of the gas.
The group of researchers then simulated what Bitcoin mining would look like in the future if it were to experience the same widespread adoption over time as credit cards, electricity, and dishwashers.
Lumping cryptocurrencies—especially those that use proof of work algorithms—in with climate change isn’t something new. It’s also the reason why some mining companies have begun adopting the mantra of “green mining.”
However, a short exploration of this study exposes a couple of flaws that may have not been obvious but could have been accounted for with a fairly modest amount of foresight.
Not all electricity is created equally
Although averaging fuel consumption for electrical power can provide helpful historical context and present-day statistics, it’s a terrible way of predicting the future.
China’s coal price, for example, has been going through the roof since June last year, up from around $70/MT to around $110/MT as trading finished on Monday. These price trends are likely to continue as China continues to beat the drum of pollution reduction, having numerous implications for the electrical power industry of the country.
This isn’t the only instance in which we see this trend; it’s also visible throughout Europe and Asia.
Moving past this microcosm of price trends, the greater point is that the research assumes ad pedem litterae that current trends in fuel prices will stay in place and that countries around the world aren’t pushing for greener electrical infrastructure.
Most of the largest and most prolific miners established recently have chosen destinations like Ocean Falls, Canada or Iceland. These are places where electricity is provided by hydroelectric or geothermic means, using little-to-no carbon-based fuels to get juice from their generators to consumers’ wall sockets.
Also critiquing the study on this particular point is Eric Masanet, a sustainability and climate change researcher at Northwestern University, in an email to The Scientist.
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