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Climate Energy

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One decade and $1 trillion after the debut of Bitcoin, the environmental footprint of “mining” the cryptocurrency is still hotly contested. What’s certain, however, is that the amount of electricity the process requires is growing at a breakneck speed. Each time transactions are added to Bitcoin’s digital ledger, they have to be verified by its network, which requires “miners” to devote huge quantities of computational power to solving cryptographic problems. As more miners join the network — lured by the skyrocketing value of the bitcoin they receive in exchange for their work — the puzzles get harder, requiring ever greater amounts of processing power, and thus electricity, to solve.

Bitcoin mining is now estimated to gobble up more electricity than many entire countries. Since 2019, when the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance placed the cryptocurrency’s power needs ahead of Switzerland’s, its consumption has more than doubled, surpassing that of Sweden. The energy used by the Bitcoin network in a single year could power all the tea kettles in the United Kingdom for over three decades.

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