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China’s bitcoin mining threatens climate goals as energy consumption overtakes that of European countries

The Daily Telegraph

Bitcoin mining in China will outstrip the energy consumption of European countries by 2024, scientists say, warning that the industry threatens climate change goals. 

Technicians inspect bitcoin mining machines at a mining facility operated by Bitmain Technologies Ltd. in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China CREDIT: Qilai Shen /Bloomberg

The process of “mining” the cryptocurrency, which involves powerful computers verifying transactions by solving puzzles, is energy intensive and in China has a significant carbon footprint because many of the miners are in areas dependent on coal for energy.

The study, by academics at Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and published in the journal Nature Communications, predicted that the energy usage of the Bitcoin blockchain would peak in 2024 at almost 297 terawatt-hours and generate 130.50 million metric tons of carbon emissions. 

This would mean the industry ranks 12th in the world in terms of energy usage, ahead of Italy, Saudi Arabia and Spain, and just below the UK. It would also become more carbon-intensive than countries including Nigeria, Belgium and Qatar.   

The authors suggest encouraging miners to move to areas dependent instead on hydro-electricity, warning that allowing the industry to continue unchecked could threaten climate goals that China has committed to meet under the Paris Agreement. 

“Without any policy interventions, the carbon emission pattern of the Bitcoin blockchain will become a non-negligible barrier against the sustainability efforts of China.

“The intensive Bitcoin blockchain operation in China can quickly grow as a threat that could potentially undermine the emission reduction effort taking place in the country,” the paper says. 

Bitcoin mining and its use by “green” companies such as electric car manufacturer Tesla has previously come under fire from critics due to its energy intensity.

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