Cambridge and IEA data shows bitcoin carbon intensity peaked last year

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According to data available from the University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, and the International Energy Agency (IEA), bitcoin’s carbon emission intensity could have already reached its peak, according to public records.

Its environmental impact is a popular talking point for its critics and journalists covering the crypto beat. However, Hass McCook (a retired chartered professional engineer) believes that bitcoin’s carbon emissions “have already peaked several months ago.”

McCook explains the data and defends this conclusion in a Friday guest post on Bitcoin Magazine’s site:

“From the above, it appears that Bitcoin’s emissions peaked in the last few months. Fortunately, due to the ban on Bitcoin mining in China, the aggressive march down towards zero emissions has begun. In the worst case scenario, Bitcoin’s emissions in five years will be less that a third of today’s, while in 10 years it will emit zero emissions.

BitAll’s bitcoin mining infrastructure has been built over the past 12 years. This gives miners the “second mover advantage” to use the most sustainable, green tech to mine bitcoin.

The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index data suggests global bitcoin mining produces a grid intensity (carbon emissions per unit electricity consumed) that is cleaner than the global average. The average world CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour is 463 grams Bitcoin miners average 418g.

According to data from IEA, the world grid intensity has reached its peak in the last year. If the energy economy continues on the same track as projections for 2021, and any subsequent years, then the world grid intensity will continue to rise.

Computers running Bitcoin Core to place and validate new bitcoin blocks on the blockchain must use electricity to correctly guess the input to a SHA256 encrypted hash.

SHA256, short for Secure Hashing Algorithm, is a one way hash function that was published by the U.S. National Security Agency (2001) and forms part of the Bitcoin design architecture.

Computers can test the guess by entering the hash into the algorithm and comparing it to the hash of the previous block. The bitcoin miner will be awarded the newly-created bitcoin to the first bitcoin node that correctly guesses the hash.

This proof-of work, or PoW mechanism, qualifies nodes for the network by forcing miners venture electricity costs. They also risk losing all their operating costs for zero profit if they attempt to cheat the network’s rules.

Bitcoin supporters and critics both claim that the energy it consumes poses environmental risks and could contribute to human-caused global warm.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a famous statement this year about bitcoin’s value. He announced that Tesla would accept Bitcoin for Teslas and then backpedaled.

Musk stated that Tesla would accept bitcoin again if at least 50% of the miners’ energy consumption is reasonable confirmed to be from clean energy’ sources.

McCook claims that most bitcoin emissions claims are exaggerated.

“One of the most debunked claims, but still commonly cited, of ‘academia” is that Bitcoin will increase the temperature of the planet by 2 degrees Celsius.

Based on the responses of respondents, a Bitcoin Mining Council survey report has been released estimating a 56% sustainable power mixture for Q2 2021 bitcoin mining operations worldwide.