As mining for bitcoin (opens in new tab) requires a great deal of energy, a group of researchers have warned China that it must implement stricter regulations and policy changes immediately or risk undermining global sustainability efforts.
In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers Shangrong Jiang, Yuze Li, Quanying Lu, Yongmiao Hong, Dabo Guan, Yu Xiong and Shouyang Wang claim that both the energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with mining bitcoin (opens in new tab) have rapidly accelerated in China.
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This is because the country has become a haven for bitcoin miners due to the fact that they are within close proximity to manufacturers of ASIC devices (opens in new tab), mining rigs (opens in new tab) and other specialized hardware along with access to cheap electricity.
In the abstract to their study (opens in new tab), the researchers provided further insight on their investigation and the implications that increased bitcoin mining in China could have on carbon emissions, saying:
“By investigating carbon emission flows of Bitcoin blockchain operation in China with a simulation-based Bitcoin blockchain carbon emission model, we find that without any policy interventions, the annual energy consumption of the Bitcoin blockchain in China is expected to peak in 2024 at 296.59 Twh and generate 130.50 million metric tons of carbon emission correspondingly.”
To put the potential emission output of China's bitcoin mining operations by 2024 into perspective, they would exceed the total annualized greenhouse gas emission output of both the Czech Republic and Qatar. The study also claims that between January 1, 2016 and June 10, 2018 that up to 13m metric tons of CO2 emissions were generated by the bitcoin blockchain (opens in new tab).
In order to limit the carbon emissions of mining bitcoin in China, the researchers recommend that the country moves away from the current punitive carbon tax policy to a site regulation policy. This would bring about changes in the energy consumption structure of mining activities to help limit the carbon emission of the bitcoin blockchain.
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