What Is Bitcoin Mining And Its Affect On The Environment
We have already talked at length about bitcoin in this piece , although this time we are going to focus on mining. This is what the process by which the cryptocurrency is obtained is called and no, to get to it it is not necessary to have a pick at hand or go down hundreds of meters to an underground cave: this modern mining ‘only’ needs the power of numerous computers dedicated exclusively to this task .
Due to the interest generated by bitcoin and the large number of people who have installed themselves in the sector in a professional way, we can tell you one thing: it is practically impossible for you to run your own bitcoin mine from your computer .
The reason is in the very operation of the system: bitcoin does not depend on any central bank that issues new currencies or that reviews transactions between users. This process is done in a decentralized way through a system that we already talked about previously, the blockchain .
In short, people offer the dedicated work of their computers to check that bitcoin transactions have been made and it is recorded on a large chain that is constantly updated. To certify this change of hands for bitcoin, computers have to solve complex cryptographic operations and, whoever does it faster, gets a certain amount of bitcoin as a reward.
Faced with the increase in the value of bitcoin, many companies and users with great resources have decided to invest in complexes full of computers that are exclusively dedicated to this task. These processors solve these complex calculations at a very high speed and, therefore, the first to seal these transactions are the professional miners.
That is why we commented to you before that, no matter how much you leave your computer day and night mining bitcoins, it is impossible for you to get anything clear.
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“Any user on the network can be a miner. Its job consists of validating the transactions that are sent over the P2P network, including the valid ones in new blocks and discarding the invalid ones. Blocks are required to contain a proof of work to be considered valid. Said proof of work shows that the miner has spent some computing time generating the block, and it is based on the hash functions.
This prevents a malicious miner from being able to ‘rewrite history’ at will and generate a version of the blockchain according to their preferences ”, he synthesizes.
Bitcoin Mining Consumes 135 Terawatt-Hours Per Year
The bitcoin boom and the great interest it is awakening in investors has resulted in an increase in these professional miners, creating a problem that a few years ago could not be imagined: that of contamination .
What environmental impact does the bitcoin industry have? To put ourselves in context we can use data from the Center for Financial Alternatives at the University of Cambridge . According to his research on bitcoin, the energy used worldwide to mine the cryptocurrency is 135.01 terawatt-hours per year. More than the energy consumed annually by Argentina, Ukraine or Sweden , to name three examples.
Most of this energy, according to the university center, comes from non-renewable sources, although it is still very difficult to quantify it precisely. “Recently, studies have shown a growth in the renewable origin of energy, such as hydro, solar or wind. However, the estimates vary enormously, placing renewable consumption from 20% to 70% ”, depending on the study that is consulted.
The truth is that as bitcoin continues to rise in price, more users will focus on its mining and, therefore, more calculations will be necessary to seal the transactions . What will generate a higher electricity consumption among miners.
To date, and although the data cannot be confirmed due to the lack of a registry that allows locating all the mining facilities, the University of Cambridge estimates that the total emissions of carbon dioxide related to bitcoin “would not exceed the 58 million tons of CO2 , which would correspond to approximately 0.17% of the world’s total emissions ”.
In this interesting interactive map you can see how cryptocurrency mining is geographically distributed. China takes the cake with more than 65% of the world’s miners.
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