Bitcoin, the trendy crypto-currency we’ve all uncomfortably pretended to understand at a party at some point in the past year, is definitely poised to change the world in more ways than one. As a decentralized way to exchange value anonymously, it has the potential to restructure entire economies.
But as digital product that requires an ever-increasing amounts of electricity to operate, it also has the potential to foster a greater dependency on fossil fuels, and wreak havoc on the environment.
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A new report from The New Republic documents the environmental resources Bitcoin could use up if it continues to grow at current rates — and the numbers are shocking.
According to the report, the estimated annual energy usage to operate the current bitcoin market is equivalent to the needs of 28 million US households.
That’s as much energy as the entire country of Morocco uses in a year.
This is mostly due to a process called Bitcoin “mining,” which takes an enormous amount of computing power.
Computers that mine bitcoin consequentially require a lot of electricity to operate, and so does the process of transferring bitcoins between parties.
In a perfect world, of course, all of us would mine our encrypted and secure currency on powerful microprocessors run off of renewable power we harvest from the sun, the wind, and the process of converting our excrement into pure energy. But alas, we are still working towards this utopian vision.
Instead, the majority of bitcoin mining operations are located in places where electricity is cheap, or subsidized by the government, like Venezuela, which is in the throngs of a bitcoin boom. More often than not, this electricity is created by burning fossil fuels — a process that releases tons of carbon emissions, and pushes us ever closer towards a planet unfit to sustain life.
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Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and taking action to combat the effects of climate change is goal number 13. You can take action on this issue here.
With the value of bitcoin higher than ever before, the cryptocurrency seems poised to continue growing at a rapid pace, all the while requiring ever-increasing amounts of electricity to sustain itself.
And although bitcoin probably isn’t the first step in a grand plan for robot overlords to destabilize human society, it is very probable that if the service continues to grow without making a conscious effort to utilize clean energy, human society could be threatened by it all the same.