Unpacking Hostile Media Narratives About Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact

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Rhetoric about Bitcoin’s environmental impact just became too much for one CCN correspondent recently, who wrote an editorial in an attempt to put the record straight; or at least bring some balance to the argument.

A recent Bitcoin News article recently tried to address the same debate after the much-publicized Alex de Vries article last year in Science Direct, forecasting that Bitcoin mining would comprise 0.5% of total global electricity consumption by the end of 2018, and was consuming 2.5 gigawatts (GW). It was the first scientific peer-reviewed paper on Bitcoin mining energy usage and caused much consternation in cryptocurrency circles at the time.

This was combated by a Coin Shares research analysis which claimed that Bitcoin mining consumes 35 TWh annually, 0.14% of global capacity and less than the energy consumption the tiny European nation of Luxembourg. Alex de Vries was then accused of an overly simplistic approach to his calculations.

Too much for CCN’s Wes Messamore, who had to take to task the seemingly “multiple articles castigating Bitcoin as a harbinger of environmental degradation and destruction”. Messamore accused the mainstream media of painting Bitcoin as “one of the four horsemen of the environmental apocalypse”.

He cited one editor’s accusation that mining contributed “20 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year—as much as the whole Republic of Ireland?” as a clear error given that, as Messamore pointed out, “a megaton is not a measure of the mass of a compound like CO2, it’s a unit of explosive energy”. What the writer should have written was a metric ton, not megaton, possibly?

Another interesting comparison to Bitcoin’s atmospheric destruction. Google estimates that it released 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2010, with Facebook’s annual carbon emissions in the 300,000 range, using its own figures. Banks don’t fair to well either, the CCN writer points out:

“Using all of the publicly available information about the global banking system, a very conservative calculation will yield an estimate that the institutional banking uses 100 terawatt-hours of electricity per year while the Bitcoin network’s annual electricity consumption is less than a third of that amount.”

Back to the drawing board; time to get the facts right regarding Bitcoin’s impact on the environment. There’s bound to be another claim along in the not too distant future.


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