Today, there’s no shortage of information about the environmental impact of A digital currency running on a blockchain and built with cryptography. Contrary to central-bank issued currency, cryptocurrency issuance rules are... More mining. Some experts and companies paint a grim picture of crypto mining inevitably destroying the environment. But is this really so bad? And what if, in the end, it’s completely the other way around?
The common narrative is that the energy-intensive process of mining crypto tokens – which involves solving complex mathematical problems and verifying transactions – will lead to an unsustainable increase in carbon emissions. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency. It was created in 2009, by an anonymous founder or group of founders... More Energy Consumption Index (CBECI), Bitcoin consumes more annual energy than Finland and Belgium, but much less than China, the US, and the gold mining industry.
Crypto mining isn’t as harmful to the environment as everyone makes it out to be. But there’s more: it could have a hidden potential for sustainability. After all, what looks like a resource for destruction at first glance might in fact help us to build a greener future. How? Let’s see.
Greener crypto mining farms for the environment
Mining farms in areas with low energy costs can have a competitive advantage over others. All that consumed energy isn’t cheap, so to stay profitable crypto mining farms also need to be conscientious about their use of electricity. Renewable energy is worth considering because it provides lower long-term costs than traditional fossil fuel-based power sources such as coal or natural gas.
The miners worldwide, from individuals to companies, know this very well. That’s why, according to the Bitcoin Mining Council, the mining energy mix increased its sustainability by 60% in 2022. This means that more and more miners are using renewables to power their machines —from solar panels and hydroelectric sources to wasted energy.
A remarkable case comes from the firm Stronghold Digital Mining. They’re using the wasted coal left by (physical) mining activities in the 20th century in Pennsylvania. As their report indicates, this crypto mining company is helping the environment by removing “approximately 279,000 tons of coal refuse and returned approximately 179,000 tons of beneficial use ash to waste coal sites during the first quarter of 2022, facilitating the remediation of these sites.” Their profitability increased this way too.
More cases and more demand
Other cases include the mining farms of Argo Blockchain (powered by wind, solar and hydro energy), TeraWulf (hydropower and nuclear), Marathon (wasted coal), Lancium (wind and solar), Aspen Creek Digital (solar), and Riot Blockchain (hydropower). Even Tesla Inc., after refusing Bitcoin for environmental concerns, is now building a mining facility powered by solar energy and batteries, along with the firms Blockstream and A collection of cryptocurrency transactions. Every few minutes (or seconds, depending on the blockchain) one miner or validator verifies the... More.
Since practicing crypto mining with renewables isn’t only good for the environment but also for profitability, the demand for these energies could rise even more. According to the climate tech entrepreneur Daniel Batten, crypto mining is one of the industries increasing the demand for renewable energy worldwide.
This could lead to major production and major usage in the future —thus, cleaning the environment from fossil fuels. Not always a major energy consumption is something bad.
Cleaning the environment with crypto mining
As we mentioned before, companies like Stronghold are using wasted coal for their crypto mining activities and cleaning the environment this way. But coal isn’t the only material polluting around. In Latin America, several companies chose to use organic waste (like sewage and cow’s dung) to mine Bitcoin and clean some beautiful spaces.
Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is one of the most touristic spots on the continent. Known as the “world’s most beautiful lake”, it has a length of 18 km, a depth of 340 meters, and is surrounded by three volcanoes and at least eleven towns. Sadly, it’s been warned that around 400 liters of wastewater and other organic waste fall into the lake every second.
To the surprise of the world, Bitcoin can help with it. The team behind the citadel Bitcoin Lake (on the shores of this lake) is preparing a crypto mining project to save this environment. They’re planning to take this organic waste and transform it into methane (biogas) using biodigesters. Then, the mining farms could be powered by recycled methane while the lake is being cleaned profitably.
And they’re not alone. In Cordoba, Argentina, the firm CryptoGranjas is doing the same with cow’s dung and other harmful materials. They’re already building biodigesters and powering them with these materials to produce methane for crypto mining. Currently in expansion, this way of mining could quickly spread, and help polluted spaces around the world.
Defeating climate change with crypto mining
Some firms have been strongly against crypto mining, arguing that it could increase the global temperature in the next years. These claims have already been proved dubious by several experts. After all, cryptocurrencies don’t consume the amount of energy needed for that. But what if it can be completely the opposite? Can crypto mining help to decrease the global temperature?
According to Daniel Batten, this could happen. Currently, the most harmful emission for the planet isn’t even CO2, but unburnt methane. When this element escapes into the air, it can be 30 times more warming than CO2 and remain in the atmosphere for twelve years. However, when the methane is burnt (as natural gas to cook, for example) produces a less-harmful amount of CO2.
“If we can combust enough of this escaping methane in time, we might be able to avoid climate disaster”, affirmed Batten, and then calculated:
“Through clean combustion of flared gas from oilfields and landfills alone, Bitcoin can reduce methane emissions by a phenomenal 23% (…) Because UNEP found that cutting human-caused methane by 45% this decade would avoid nearly 0.3°C of global warming by the 2040s, this means that the contribution of bitcoin mining to reducing climate change can be 0.15°C of global warming by the 2040s.”
So, if the crypto miners keep using methane as an energy source, they could even prevent more climate change. Who would say it?
NFTs are saving the environment too
Since most Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) work on Ethereum (a crypto mining network yet), they’ve been widely criticized for a possible environmental impact. Although, they’re also working to be greener and contribute to the environment. For instance, the global network of ecological filmmakers Ocean Collective launched a green NFT collection along with Polygon.
The collection titled “Museum of Extinction” depicted endangered species in every artwork. The raised funds are destined to mitigate the negative impact on the ocean, which includes projects for plastic removal, protecting species, and sequestering carbon through marine ecosystems.
We also have the Metaverse project Next Earth helping the planet. They sell virtual lands in the form of NFTs, and 10% of every A cryptocurrency transaction is an entry on the blockchain ledger, noting sender, receiver and number of coins transacted. More goes directly to selected environmental charities. These include SEE Turtles (to save sea turtles), Kiss the ground (to heal soils), and Amazon Watch (to protect rainforests and native people).
Moss Earth is another green crypto project. They’re selling Amazon NFTs as symbolic areas of the homonymous rainforest. The owners can monitor these areas and their preservation. Likewise, the firm is issuing the coin MCO2 to tokenize carbon credits. So far, they already sent over $30 million to Amazon conservation initiatives.
These good causes aren’t unique inside the NFTs and crypto mining world. There are many more around, doing their part. In this case, we can say that isn’t about what you use, but how you use it. Crypto mining can help us more with the environment than we think, but we need to start using it the right way.
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