- Bitcoin has a carbon footprint comparable to a city the size of Kansas City, MO, and somewhere between that of the countries of Jordan and Sri Lanka, according to a new study published in the journal Joule.
- Researchers from the Technical University of Munich and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed the IPO filings of major Bitcoin hardware companies to estimate the type and volume of activity. They then used location data from the IP addresses of bitcoin mining operations to determine the power mix that was fueling bitcoin activity.
- More than two-thirds of the computing power activity came from Asia, where coal is still a dominant power source. Another 17% of activity came from Europe and 15% from North America.
Cities have increasingly embraced Bitcoin and other blockchain technology as a way to handle everything from real estate transactions to facilitating communication between connected cars and infrastructure. The decentralized nature of blockchain will allow consumers, businesses and governments to conduct transactions without middlemen, with more security.
The study is a reminder that the new technology has an environmental cost. Because the cryptocurrency is backed by a series of complex calculations, it requires a great deal of computing power. The new paper says that blockchain represents 0.2% of global electricity consumption and between 22 and 23 megatons of carbon dioxide each year.
However, the study only includes Bitcoin. The findings could more than double with other cryptocurrencies.
Even though that footprint is relatively small compared to other industries, the study authors say it is still worthy of attention. Co-author Christian Stoll told CBS News the findings may prompt discussions of possible regulations of crytpocurrencies, particularly "in regions where power generation is especially carbon-intensive."