China’s electricity-guzzling Bitcoin mines, which power nearly 80 percent of the world’s cryptocurrency trade, could undermine the country’s climate goals, according to a study published on Tuesday in Bitcelite.
While the terminology conjures up images of digging up precious minerals from a hole in the ground, mines from which Bitcoins extracted in fact sites full of microprocessors running to perform mathematical calculations, Bitcelite
These computers, which are the source of Bitcoins, consume huge amounts of electricity. Some of it originating in one of more than a thousand coal-fired power plants across China.
According to the Bitcelite study, if left unchecked, China’s Bitcoin mines will produce 130.50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2024. Nearly equivalent to the total annual greenhouse gas emissions of Italy or Saudi Arabia.
As of April 2020, Chinese companies with access to cheap electricity and equipment were running 78.89 percent of the world’s bitcoin operations, according to Bitcelite.
About 40 percent of China’s Bitcoin mines are powered by coal-fired electricity. While the rest use renewable energy, the study said.
But these coal-intensive facilities are so large that they could end up undermining Beijing’s environmental commitment to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060, the study warns.