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Crypto Climate Warning - Fact Or Fiction?

04 November, 2018
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A study published last week in Nature Climate Change, a monthly peer-reviewed journal dealing with the effects of global warming, came out with a stark warning about cryptocurrency and the future of the planet. The study went as far as to single out Bitcoin, which it described as a power-hungry cryptocurrency that could single-handedly destroy the planet. The overall thesis of the study (to quote an example) maintained that, "Projected bitcoin usage, should it follow the rate of adoption of other broadly adopted technologies, could alone produce CO2 emissions to push warming above 2 degrees Celsius within less than three decades." 

Although the study was diligent enough to quantify its assumptions with words like "could" and "should," an interesting chain reaction in established financial and mainstream media outlets throughout the world quickly transpired. Within 24 hours of the study being published, the likes of the Indepenent in the UK, USA Today, and Forbes, to name a few, picked it up with doomsday bells and whistles in what felt like a well-orchestrated campaign. The Independent went as far as claiming in its headline that, "Expanding Bitcoin will push global warming above 2C in two decades," which of course makes it sound like a fact. 

The quantification of the process as a possibility rather than a 'fait accompli' was saved for the body of the article.  But let's face it, in this day and digital age of short attention spans, very few get past a headline. As a headline, the direct correlation between Bitcoin and the untimely climatic demise of the planet can be made about almost every server farm around the world these days, not just those that mine cryptocurrency. 

One could argue that major server farm operators, who have faced the same criticism in the past, came up with the solution of green energy. Case in point: Apple, which announced earlier this year that all its global facilities are powered with 100 percent green energy, began the process a while back when criticism was leveled towards its mass amount of server farm emissions. 

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," and why some prolific mining facilities established recently have chosen destinations like Ocean Falls, Canada or Iceland, 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.  

If that is the case, and solving the problem is as easy as transitioning into reusable energy, why give the study such a prominent mainstream-media stage? Taking a look at the "state of Bitcoin affairs" last week, one could argue that cryptocurrency has stabilized enough to scare the old guard, but that of course is only an assumption, not a scientific study.

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