Correction: Bitcoin Carbon Footprint History

BERLIN (AP) – In a June 13 story about Bitcoin’s carbon footprint, The Associated Press falsely reported that the electricity required for a Bitcoin transaction emits hundreds of times as much CO2 as a credit card payment. It’s a hundred thousand times that much.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Researcher: Bitcoin’s carbon footprint is the same as Las Vegas

Researchers calculate that the electricity required for the virtual currency Bitcoin generates just as much carbon dioxide as cities like Las Vegas or Hamburg

From Frank Jordan

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) – Bitcoin in virtual currency is responsible for the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as a city like Las Vegas or Hamburg. According to researchers, efforts should be made on Thursday to reduce the climatic footprint.

A study by researchers from the Technical University of Munich and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at how much electricity is consumed by computers used to generate bitcoins and process transactions.

In Joule magazine, the researchers wrote that they combined the results with carbon emissions from electricity generation in the countries where the computers were located.

They came to the conclusion that at the end of 2018 the entire Bitcoin network was responsible for 22 to 22.9 million tons of CO2 per year – similar to that in a large western city or an entire developing country like Sri Lanka. Global greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels totaled around 37 billion tons last year.

“There are larger factors that contribute to climate change,” said Christian Stoll, one of the study’s authors. “However, the carbon footprint is large enough to discuss the possibility of regulating cryptocurrency mining in regions where electricity generation is particularly carbon-intensive.”

The researchers said that roughly 68% of the computing power used to create or extract bitcoins is in Asia, 17% in Europe, and 15% in North America.

Alex de Vries, a Bitcoin researcher who was not involved in the study, asked whether the method of determining the location of computers was reliable enough.

However, De Vries said the emission levels were in line with those he had calculated using a different method and could possibly even be on the lower end.

“The people in this study were very conservative on the energy side,” he told The Associated Press.

The environmental impact of Bitcoin, the main virtual currency, has long been a problem, especially given its limited adoption.

Last year, the Bitcoin network processed around 81 million transactions, compared to 500 billion transactions processed by the regular global banking system, de Vries said.

“If you look at the carbon footprint per transaction, that’s the real shock,” said de Vries, estimating it at around 271 kilograms of carbon per transaction – or hundreds of thousands of times that of a standard credit card payment. “That’s crazy.”

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