Researchers allege Bitcoin’s climate impact closer to ‘digital crude’ than gold

The Bitcoin (BTC) onslaught has continued unabated even in the depths of a bear market with more research questioning its energy use and environmental impact.

The latest paper by researchers at the University of New Mexico’s economics department, published on September 29, alleges that from a climate damage perspective, Bitcoin functions more like “digital crude” than “digital gold “.

The research attempts to estimate the energy-related climate damage caused by proof-of-work Bitcoin mining and make comparisons with other industries. It claims that between 2016 and 2021, on average every $1 in BTC market value created was responsible for $0.35 in global “climate damage,” adding:

“Which, as a share of market value, is between beef production and crude oil burned as gasoline, and an order of magnitude higher than wind and solar power.”

The researchers conclude that the findings represent “a set of red flags for any consideration as a sustainable sector,” adding that it is highly unlikely that the Bitcoin network will become sustainable by switching to proof-of-stake.

“If industry does not shift its production trajectory away from POW, or move towards POS, then this class of digitally scarce goods may need to be regulated, and delay will likely lead to increased global climate damage.”

Lachlan Feeney, the founder and CEO of Australia-based blockchain development agency Labrys, recently told Cointelegraph after the merger that “the pressure is on” Bitcoin to justify the PoW system in the long term.

However, there are always counter-comparisons and arguments. The University of Cambridge currently reports that the Bitcoin network currently consumes 94 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. To put this into context, all the refrigerators in the United States alone consume more than the entire BTC network at 104 TWh per year.

Also, transmission and distribution electricity losses in the US alone are 206 TWh per year, which could power the Bitcoin network 2.2 times more. Cambridge also reports that demand for energy from the Bitcoin network has decreased by 28% since mid-June. This is likely due to miners capitulating during the bear market and adopting more efficient mining hardware.

Related: Nic Carter aims to claim that Bitcoin is an environmental disaster

It is also argued that more renewable energy mining is now taking place, particularly in the United States, which has seen an influx of mining companies since China’s ban.

Earlier this month, former MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor slammed the “misinformation and propaganda” about the Bitcoin network’s power usage. He noted that metrics show that nearly 60% of the energy for BTC mining comes from sustainable sources, and energy efficiency improves by 46% year over year.

Texas, which has become a mining mecca in recent years, is an example of where renewables reign: it is the largest producer of wind energy in the United States. Various mining operations have also been created to use excess or otherwise wasted energy, such as gas roasting. In August, Cointelegraph also reported that the use of sustainable energy for BTC mining has grown by almost 60% in a year, so it’s not all doom and gloom.