Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has stoked controversy by pointing out the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies, and calling for a crackdown on all the computing power used for mining digital currency.
Warren chaired a meeting of the Senate Banking Subcommittee last week where one of the main issues discussed was whether the US Federal Reserve should issue its own cryptocurrency. Among the concerns brought up were the vulnerability to cyberattacks, instability and the tendency of cryptocurrencies to “rip-off” people who become involved with it.
Warren added an item to the list: the environmental concerns associated with digital currency. Warren posted an excerpt from the meeting on Twitter, “Bitcoin requires so much computing activity that it eats up more energy than entire countries. One of the easiest and least disruptive things we can do to fight the #ClimateCrisis is to crack down on environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies.”
The Tweet immediately garnered mixed reactions, with many commenters agreeing and others arguing that other industries are far more culpable in climate change than digital currencies. According to Investopedia.com, the environmental impact of cryptocurrency comes from specialized computers engaged in a computational race to record new data blocks, which can only be created by solving cryptographic puzzles. These puzzles require a large amount of computing power, which contributes to climate impact.
In May of this year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would no longer be accepting Bitcoin payments due to concern over the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions,” tanking Bitcoin’s value in just a few days. While Warren’s critics are quick to point out that other industries, such as airlines, have a far greater impact on the environment than digital currency, her concerns over cryptocurrency’s environmental impact are not unfounded.
Earlier this year, BBC reported Bitcoin uses 121 Terawatt-hours of electricity every year – more than the entire country of Brazil. China, where over 65% of bitcoin mining happens, gets most of its energy from burning coal. A report by CNBC revealed that 35.95 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year come from bitcoin mining. Further plans for a US Federal Reserve digital currency remain in discussion.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: YAHOO NEWS CANADA
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