Bitcoin’s carbon footprint a 'clear and present danger' to Earth, says BitCarbon founder

The UpTake: Environmental scientist and entrepreneur Guy Lane says that mining Bitcoin is having a huge impact on the environment and if we don't find a more efficient way to create the currency the damage could soon be greater than that created by entire nations.

Guy Lane

Guy Lane, founder of Bitcarbon

Where do Bitcoins come from? Massively powerful computers churning through algorithms in a race to be the first to solve a problem.

A Bitcoin is the reward those computers receive for their work. It’s a process called “Bitcoin mining” and its byproducts—in the form of carbon emissions generated by the massive amount of energy it takes to "mine" the crypto-currency—could soon dwarf the environmental damage of entire nations.

Guy Lane, a 46-year-old carbon auditor and environmental scientist believes the time is past for entrepreneurs to build the next big thing, whatever that is, without also considering how the planet operates.

“Bitcoin is a currency that has been designed by Trekkies who think they live in an orbiting space station powered by a fusion reactor,” said Lane, the founder of BitCarbon, a Townsville, Australia based startup that tracks the impact of the production of Bitcoins on the environment, in a Skype interview with Upstart Business Journal today. “It is not a system meant to be used by humans living in a biosphere.”

Lane says that the same complex algorithms that “gobble up” an ever increasing amount of energy, and limit the number of Bitcoins to 21 million (theoretically controlling inflation) are also draining the earth of its finite resources.

To calculate the damage to the earth caused by Bitcoin Lane started with the global electricity consumption rate to mine the currency, provided by Blockchain.info—currently at 115,522.93 megawatt hours.

In November Forbes reported that the global Bitcoin computing power is now 256 times faster than the top 500 supercomputers on earth, combined.

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