Bitcoin, it’s the cryptocurrency that’s all over the place like those spinny hand things were last year, but unlike those you don’t see children and strange men playing in the street with these.
As a money-related subject, it’s one that many have switched off to, and yet with its weird, buccaneering, stick it to the man way, lots of people have been going gaga for it of late.
In the last week it’s passed the $10,000 dollar mark on exchange rates, and at the time of writing it’s sitting pretty at just over $13,000. Pretty big bucks for something that can apparently be bought and sold without a slick-looking fella in a suit in sight. No wonder there’s talk about it everywhere.
There appears though to be a dark truth behind the rumblings of the cryptocurrency machine and if like most people you’re totally freaking broke or have any care for the future of the planet it’s one to push your little snowflake buttons.
While the means of production of this currency is through our super modern computers, the fact remains computers take old fashioned energy to run them, and the amount of power required to run them is huge. Eric Holthaus, writing for non-profit magazine Grist, explains the currency conundrum that looks like it’s only going to get worse.
Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the US for one day.
And miners are constantly installing more and faster computers.
What started as a ‘secure, anonymous method for transferring value between people’ has turned into a tradeable asset, and now its value is increasing more and more big players are getting involved.
The originators may not have foreseen the speed and growth that Bitcoin has taken. The problem lies in how the currency was set up. The more Bitcoins there are the harder it is to mine them. And what’s required to mine these coins? More computers. How do you run computers? On power. Originally it was a kink in the system designed to control the flow of currency. Now things seem to have gotten out of control.
Given its rapidly growing climate footprint, bitcoin is a malignant development, and it’s getting worse.
Humanity, Holthaus argues, is decades behind on countering climate change, and Bitcoin is failing in its impact on our climate.
Within a few months, he says, the network’s demand for electricity will outstrip what’s available.
He adds starkly:
By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses.
By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.
This is an unsustainable trajectory. It simply can’t continue.
But as ecologists and scientists look on at the current situation with dismay and doom-mongers and conspiracy theorists fill the internet with their ideas, Holthaus sees the possibility of necessity being the mother of all invention.
There are advances in development which provide irrigation in agriculture and outdoor LED lighting, he says. However, shockingly, he argues it’s certain Bitcoin mining will divert the progress made in electrifying the world and reducing carbon emissions.
What’s that saying about things seeming too good to be true?
Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.