Cryptocurrencies have progressed in our society and have come a long way as a trading alternative. Digital currencies like Bitcoin or Ether have made themselves the most popular growing unit value and proved to be the most successful and legitimate transaction. Although cryptocurrencies have massive and multiple benefits, it does not exist without its fallbacks. The environmental impact of digital currencies have become to rise under question and scientists are concerned for the potential outcomes that will arise in the nearer future.
Unlike the dollar or other various currencies like the pound, these virtual “coins” are not tied to a bank, instead they are “mined” by computers in data centers that use excessive and huge amounts of energy. as of December, 2017 one of the most vastly used digital currency, Bitcoin (BTC) estimately uses about 32 terawatts of energy every year, which is equivalent to powering about three million households in the U.S. The process of mining BTC and other digital currencies uses a staggering amount of energy and the numbers are only rising especially for the black market and illegal businesses.
Meteorologist, Eric Holthaus argues, “bitcoin is slowing the effort to achieve a rapid transition away from fossil fuels”. The burning of coal and other fossil fuels is currently a major source of electricity and power worldwide, not only for cryptocurrencies in the business aspect but also for other hosts. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have indicated that much of the electricity used in mining operations has come from insufficient coal based power plants that were constructed in rural areas of the country in advance of large construction projects many of which were never materialized.
Coal burning is a significant contributor to climate change in the environment and the result of carbon dioxide which is produced by the process.
Not only does coal burning impact climate change but it also promotes air pollution. When coal is burned it releases a number of airborne toxins and pollutants. Mercury, sulfur dioxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and various other metals are all included when comes to chemicals and toxins released into the air we breathe in everyday. This impacts the health of the occupants on earth, which includes us humans. Health impacts can range from asthma and breathing difficulties, to brain damage, heart problems, cancer, neurological disorders, and premature death. Coal impacts the basic necessities needed to sustain life like water, for example. More than a million tons of coal ash is produced from burning charcoal every year. More than half of that waste ends up in local ponds, lakes, landfills, and other sites where, overtime, it can contaminate waterways and drinking water.
Global warming is a serious, long term and a problematic global impact. Chemically, coal is mostly carbon, which, when burned, reacts with oxygen in the air to produce carbon dioxide which ultimately is a heat trapping gas. When carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, it acts as a blanket, warming the earth above normal limits.
Although the environmental impact will not be sudden and quick, mathematically, the more and more Bitcoins are mined, energy will be required and which will process it more and intentionally polluting and damaging the world we live in. There are several ways to induce environmental healing by searching for alternatives.
With the recent and rapid growth of cryptocurrencies in general, one might wonder how in the world there might be an alternative or solution to this problem. The alternatives can focus on two different and separate aspects, one that issues with the way cryptocurrencies are mined, or another approach that deals with the renewable energy powered mining operations. One of the ways to fix or alleviate the problem is to use renewable energy for power mining operations.