Bitcoin mining’s carbon emissions have increased after moving from China to the United States and other countries, according to a team of academics from the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany.
The group states in a research published in the journal Joule that, as Bitcoin miners have been forced out of China, they have relocated to areas with fossil-fuel-based electrical sources, resulting in increased carbon dioxide emissions. They estimated that, after mining farms relocating to other nations, the carbon intensity of Bitcoin increased by about 17%.
The process of creating new Bitcoins is known as Bitcoin mining, and it is carried out on powerful computers that consume a lot of electricity. Initially, Bitcoin mining companies viewed China to be a welcoming place with abundant supply of hydroelectricity in summer, especially in Sichuan and Yunnan, which allow miners to claim that their activities were environmentally friendly.
However, in 2013, China became concerned about Bitcoin's speculative character and operations. Over the next few years, the Chinese government began prohibiting financial institutions from using the cryptocurrency, eventually shutting down Bitcoin mining operations entirely.
In May, the Chinese authorities ordered a crackdown on crypto mining and trading, forcing Bitcoin mining farms to relocate their activities.
The mining companies were forced to migrate to other nations, primarily the United States and, to a lesser extent, Kazakhstan and a few others. According to the study, Bitcoin mining has resulted in an increase in emissions.
The researchers utilized worldwide maps used by Bitcoin miners to observe where their activities were going. They were able to locate the new Bitcoin mining operations, most of which were in the United States, using IP addresses from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. They could also see which states were hosting the new mining operations, which largely Texas, Kentucky, and Georgia, three states that provided miners with tax benefits.
Unfortunately, all three states above are heavily reliant on coal and natural gas to generate electricity, which caused Bitcoin mining activities to emit more carbon dioxide than they have in the past. According to the research, Bitcoin could be responsible for 65.4 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually, which is comparable to country-level emissions in Greece.