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Bitcoin; False Promises for Saving The Planet

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Bitcoin’s blistering price rise has broken a new milestone, passing the $10,000 threshold for the first time. It’s a considerable achievement given that the most famous of cryptocurrencies was worth under $1,000 at the beginning of this year, and first reached $2,000 just a few months ago. But it’s also a frightening feat, reported Worldcrunch (US).

The fears go beyond the rumblings of a new speculative bubble around the revolutionary (and still largely untested) virtual financial mechanism. Bitcoin’s surge is also a cause for concern for a less obvious reason: the environment.

Yes, bitcoins are bad for the planet. Despite being a digital currency, bitcoins exist in limited supply and they need to be “mined,” (a virtual variation on the way we mine gold, for instance). This is done by solving extremely complex mathematical problems, which requires a lot of very tangible and very powerful computers — and therefore an awful lot of electricity.

The more bitcoins are mined, the more difficult these problems become and, consequently, the more computing power and electrical energy is needed.

Recent research conducted by the website Digiconomist has shown that Bitcoin mining alone now consumes more electricity in a year than the whole of Ireland, and more than most African countries. By another measure, each Bitcoin transaction now uses as much energy as an average U.S. home does in an entire week.

For the entire technological prowess behind Bitcoin, the urgent question of ecology requires some rather simple math: Will it raise or lower the temperature of the planet?

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