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There is a clear upward trajectory in per coin estimated climate damages, as seen from the non-linear trend line in Fig. Rather than declining as the industry matures, each new BTC coin mined is, on average, associated with increasing climate damages. Over —, BTC was underwater on 6. What if the social cost of carbon is varied? One key parameter where we assume a range of values from available evidence is the SCC. SCC is the estimated present value of monetary damages from emitting an additional tonne of carbon today and monetizes the negative social externalities of carbon emissions From a policy and regulatory perspective, SCC is a key parameter for evaluating the social costs i.
SCC estimation has extensive history in economics 40 , 41 , 42 , and such values are widely used However, while analyses that use SCC estimates must make assumptions on its value or range, there is no consensus Even a select review of recent SCC estimation studies encompasses a broad range of values 38 , 40 , Regardless of SCC value, climate damages of BTC mining increased substantially from to , with a continuing upward trajectory.
What if mining used more renewable energy? The CO2e emission estimates and climate damages depend, critically, on assumptions of the share of renewable electricity sources used in cryptocurrency mining. Due to the decentralized and anonymized nature of cryptocurrency mining, determining actual energy sources is a challenge and no primary data sources exist This has led to a range of estimates in the literature.
Prior work suggests the share of renewables e. Some of the differences in estimates are due to the time periods studied. China, once a large source of global Bitcoin mining that likely used significant amounts of renewable hydropower 30 , banned all cryptocurrency mining in This appears to have drastically altered the global share of renewables used by Bitcoin miners, resulting in an increased use of fossil fuels Thus, renewable share estimates before and after the China ban would be expected to be different, and perhaps considerably so.
Other differences, such as the methods used to locate miners, assumptions on mining rig efficiency and cooling needs, and assumptions on electricity sources can also drive differences in the range of estimates found in prior work 30 , Given the large ranges found, we expand our analysis with an alternative higher renewable electricity scenario. In this scenario, we increase the share of renewable generation used to mine cryptocurrencies from the baseline of Compared to the baseline renewable share, increasing use of renewables in BTC mining reduces associated climate damages per coin mined Supplementary Table 2.
Thus, even if BTC miners obtained the majority of their electricity from renewables and directly carbon free sources, there are still large and growing climate damages. Comparison to other commodities Recall from Fig. This does not necessarily imply that the POW mining process is sustainable. To contextualize these ratios, we make climate damage comparisons against some other relevant commodities and economic products: i electricity generation by source hydropower, wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, and coal , ii crude oil processed and burned as gasoline, iii automobile use and manufacturing sport utility vehicles SUVs and mid-sized sedans , iv agricultural meat production chicken, pork, and beef , and; v precious metals mining rare earth oxides REOs , copper, platinum group metals PGMs , and gold.
BTC climate damages only include energy use and emissions from running mining rigs, and do not include climate damages associated with cooling and manufacturing of mining rigs or other potential sources of carbon equivalent emissions.
This makes estimated BTC damages a lower bound compared to the full lifecycle damages for the other commodities shown. Climate damages for the other commodities and economic products shown are calculated using lifecycle estimates from the peer-reviewed literature and US government agencies combined with publicly available price data.
All commodity prices and lifecycle climate damage data are in the Supplementary Data. This places BTC in the category of other energy intensive or heavily-polluting commodities such as beef production, natural gas electricity generation, or gasoline from crude oil, and substantially more damaging than what we might consider to be more sustainable commodities like chicken and pork production and renewable electricity sources like solar and wind.
For solar and wind specifically, their full lifecycle climate damages as a share of their market prices are an order-of-magnitude below those of BTC over — Discussion Digitally scarce goods are likely here to stay, and will bring innovation to a variety of economic dimensions generating value to people.
Our focus is on the dominant cryptocurrency, BTC, which uses a highly energy-intensive, competitive POW mining scheme. While society and nations weigh the benefits and costs of various digitally scarce goods, we provide an empirical approach for evaluating BTC sustainability concerns. We find that for — i per coin climate damages from BTC were increasing; ii as a share of its market price, BTC climate damages were underwater 6.
Taken together, the results represent a set of red flags for any consideration as a sustainable sector investment or otherwise. This exceedance occurs 6. While this might be a clear alarm threshold, might it be too weak? To help consider this, we turn to our third criterion, where we make comparisons to other commodities and sectors. We highlight that for our comparison commodities, the shares all represent full lifecycle damage estimates, but not for BTC. Thus, BTC shares are deflated in this initial research, ignoring carbon emissions from cooling of mining rigs, rig manufacturing, electronic waste, building construction, etc.
Naturally, an inflated price will artificially decrease the estimated climate damages to price ratio. To the extent that artificial price inflation is occurring, the damage ratio with a not-manipulated price may be higher than those presented here. Finally, we have focused strictly on climate damages, but many technology assessments also include health damages from emissions. Thus, for several reasons our sustainability evaluations for BTC are highly conservative.
While not the focus of this paper, an alternative cryptocurrency production process to POW, known as proof-of-stake POS , could be used to lower the energy use of cryptocurrency mining. POS works by requiring validators to hold and stake coins, with the next block writer on the blockchain being selected at random, with higher odds being assigned to those with larger stake positions POS, by relying on randomization and validation sharing, does not require significant computational power and therefore uses a fraction of the electricity as POW mining.
Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization 26 , is scheduled to switch from POW to POS sometime in , lowering its estimated energy use by If Bitcoin, the dominant global cryptocurrency, could also switch from POW to POS, its energy use, and, by extension, its climate damages estimated in this work, would likely become negligible.
There is no shortage of advocates for digitally scarce goods, and the innovation they offer. Our counterfactuals show that extreme changes would be required to make BTC sustainable e. POW-based cryptocurrencies are on an unsustainable path. Methods Climate damages of Bitcoin mining Estimates of climate damages from Bitcoin mining follow methods described in the existing literature in this space 5 , The emission factors used are provided in the Supplementary Data. All estimates of annual or multi-year damages per coin or damages per share of coin price take a daily-coin-generated weighted average across days i.
Mining rigs improved the efficiency of hash calculations per unit of energy over our study period. Conversion from United States dollar to Bitcoin can be done at current rates as well as at historical rates — to do this, select the desired exchange rate date.
Additionally, the currency calculator shows the closing rate of the previous day as well as the highest and lowest rates of the conversion United States dollar - Bitcoin. The results are displayed in a clearly arranged table. In addition to the United States dollar - Bitcoin rate, the Markets Insider currency calculator also offers other exchange rates for about international currencies. United States dollar - Bitcoin Currency Calculator You have currently selected the base currency United States dollar and the target currency Bitcoin with an amount of 1 United States dollar.
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United States dollar - Bitcoin Currency Calculator You have currently selected the base currency United States dollar and the target currency Bitcoin with an amount of 1 United States dollar. In the menu, you can select the desired exchange rates of about international currencies from the two lists. Additionally, the currency calculator allows you to calculate historical exchange rates in addition to the current rate.
The results are displayed in a table with the closing rate of the previous day, the opening rate as well as the lowest and highest rates of the respective date.
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