This Bitcoin Phenomena Is Actually Destroying Our Planet

Diply 8 Mar 2018

Bitcoin has become a pretty crazy phenomena. At first, it seemed like a dumb attempt to invent a new currency, and for years it seemed like a poor investment.

But suddenly, in 2017, bitcoin began paying off. How much? If you'd bought $100 in bitcoin in 2011, by late 2017 it would be worth $4 million.

But there are a few reasons bitcoin isn't good for us.

Bitcoin transactions require massive computing power.

Wikimedia | Ladislav Mecir

The whole process is decentralized, meaning it relies on global technology efforts to function. In effect, it requires more energy to complete a bitcoin transaction than it does to do any sort of conventional banking.

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At our current rate, all of our world's energy will be used up by bitcoin transactions.

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How is this even possible? Why is nobody talking about it? To understand, we need to talk about the kind of computing power bitcoin requires.

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Bitcoin requires blockchains in order to work.

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Blockchains are decentralized ledgers — basically a list of transactions. Being decentralized means they leach off the world's computer networks in order to be read. The name blockchain comes from the fact that transactions are categorized into "blocks" of data, then chained together.

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Each transaction adds a new chain to the existing blocks.

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So every bitcoin transaction includes the data from every transaction that preceded it, plus the latest transaction. Needless to say, this data adds up frighteningly fast, especially as more people jump on the bitcoin bandwagon.

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Bitcoin is secure, but this comes at a price.

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The decentralized nature of bitcoin transactions means that they're pretty much hack-proof, but writing these new blocks — known as mining — takes up computing power, and electricity, from all over the planet.

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Cryptocurrency transactions are shockingly energy-intensive.

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It sounds insane, but a single bitcoin transaction, big or small, takes the same amount of energy that would be used to power nine homes in the United States for an entire day. Think of that! Just one transaction!

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Bitcoin transactions use more energy than some countries.

Wikimedia Commons | Stefan Kühn

The transactions use 31 terawatt-hours per year, increasing its energy use by about 450 gigawatt-hours per day. Don't know what that means? Basically, it's using more electricity than about 150 individual countries.

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These transactions pull power from everywhere in the world.

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This means that, in areas where electricity is scarce, people are experiencing blackouts just so tech bros half a world away can trade cryptocurrency futures. It's messed up and it's unsustainable.

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Bitcoin is diverting clean power.

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Hydroelectric power is safe and clean, but in China, it's increasingly being used for bitcoin mining rather than improving things for local people in the area.

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People are stealing public electricity to fuel bitcoin transactions.

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"Free" electricity, even at a charging station, isn't truly free — a lesson one bitcoin-mining Tesla owner would be well advised to figure out.

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At this rate, bitcoin will outstrip the electricity that's available.

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At current rates, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States in a little over a year.

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This simply isn't sustainable.

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In a world that requires more and more energy, we can't keep devoting so much to cryptocurrency.

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