back to article Bitcoin worse for the climate than beef, say economists

Far from being the "digital gold" some claim, Bitcoin's relative climate change impact is greater than the beef industry, and over seven times more than actual gold mining. Economic researchers compared the environmental impact of Bitcoin – created by using computing brute force to crack complex algorithmic puzzles – against …

  1. Chubango

    The real gold were the profits we made along the way

    Who would have thought that spending computing power and electricity for no benefit to society would be bad for the planet? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!

    1. Alumoi Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: The real gold were the profits we made along the way

      Oh, come on, the metaverse is the future!

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: The real gold were the profits we made along the way

        Blue Pill: kill me now

        Red Pill: wake when it's over

        The agony of choice!

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: The real gold were the profits we made along the way

      I know! It only took, what, years of mega kWh crypto usage history to show this?! My, those economist researchers are on the BALL!

    3. Bartholomew Bronze badge

      Re: The real gold were the profits we made along the way

      You mean like DRM (Digital Restriction Manglement) ?

      It is debatable that it currently achieves anything useful for ANYONE at all. All it does is waste power globally, and generate additional greenhouse gases.

      Intel's daughter company owns most of the Content protection patent space (e.g. High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP)), so maybe it benefits them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lying with numbers

    The calculations for both Beef and Bitcoin are wildly (I want to say inaccurate, but intentionally misleading may be a better fit).

    Which is about par for the course when economists stray out of their own field. The way they abuse math may be why they have a hundreds year history of failed market making. It certainly is an ill fit to science, especially environmental science.

    So for one, the power usage is an estimate of an estimate of an estimate. Repeatedly rounded generously upward at every step. Due to increasing use of advanced ASICs the power use for hashing is lower, Also, the back of the napkin estimates used for energy sources is sketchy.

    What you have is a crayon sketch of mathematics, an obvious conclusion, and popular buzzwords to boot the virality of the clickbait.

    That said I agree that Bitcoin needs to be shoved into this century, as it's proof-of-work system is a dinosaur even among it's own kind. That may well destroy it's valuation though, so don't expect the whales to just roll over on this one. Taxing the crap out of Proof-Of-Work based assets would probably work better than comparing it to the beef or coal or whatever the villain of week industry is.

    But again, economist, so someone eyeballs deep in a field that can't even keep the markets and the economy running smoothly, that has warring factions with opposing explanations of almost everything, and can't predict the markets on either the short or long term.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lying with numbers

      Well, I console myself with the fact that rising energy prices have put a stake through that massively ecologically irresponsible idea too.

      That must annoy the criminals who use it to avoid their funds being tracked.

      1. Gob Smacked

        Re: Lying with numbers

        "Well, I console myself with the fact that rising energy prices have put a stake through that massively ecologically irresponsible idea too."

        Fact check - the actual mining hash rate is at an all time high and climbing... seems that bitcoin mining is actually using alternative and even free energy sources ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. hoola Silver badge

          Re: Lying with numbers

          Whether the energy used for any sort of crypto mining is free, renewable or just good old "electricity" is irrelevant. It is still an utter waste of a valuable resource. Now add in all the energy and resources that go into making the actual mining rigs. It is an even greater colossal waste of resources.

          1. Gob Smacked

            Re: Lying with numbers

            Utter waste of energy: Las Vegas comes to mind. Computer gaming. Flying for holidays. It's just what one defines as useless. Most here would rather win in Vegas than put their good money into crypto I guess.. - just pick your poison, I don't mind either way. It's just the hostility that surprises me.

        2. Wil Palen

          Re: Lying with numbers

          Not sure why you're downvoted, because you're right.

          Bitcoin mining is the most green of all industries; using stranded energy (otherwise impossible to use), taking out methane emissions (net negative carbon offset), using energy when there's a surplus, not using it when there's a deficit etc.

          Those that criticize bitcoin energy use are also ignoring the energy the entire banking system uses, (estimates vary, but it's an order of magnitude bigger than what bitcoin mining consumes) which bitcoin has the potential to largely replace.

          1. Gob Smacked

            Re: Lying with numbers

            "Not sure why you're downvoted"

            I do... lol. The Reg is self-confessed anti crypto platform. I like their stance against all things somewhat incorrect in the tech sphere, but I guess they need to educate themselves a bit regarding bitcoin. Everyone needs their good time to find out that bitcoin is not "crypto", but something entirely different. Let's give them a few years to find out. Just like most everyone else I guess...

    2. Schultz
      Thumb Down

      Re: Lying with numbers

      So an Anonymous Coward pulls some arguments out of his sleeve and thinks that this makes a convincing case against a serious and well-documented study published in Nature? How about you invest a few years into higher education, become so brilliant that your PhD topic makes into the Nature journal, and then you explain to us, with proper fact-based arguments, why said study is mistaken. Calling others liars is a bit over the top. Doing so without any meaningful arguments is just despicable.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Lying with numbers

        Now, now. AC's argument is an impeccable syllogism:

        1. My opinions are correct (otherwise I would change them).

        2. The conclusions of this study contradiction my opinions.

        3. Therefore this study is incorrect.

        This is known as argumentum ad internet.

    3. nobody who matters Bronze badge

      Re: Lying with numbers

      "........The calculations for both Beef and Bitcoin are wildly (I want to say inaccurate, but intentionally misleading may be a better fit)........"

      I can't speak for the figures related to BitCoin, because it is a subject that I know little about, but the figures widely bandied about for cattle and their share of the damage are certainly "apocryphal, or at least, wildly inaccurate".

      Cattle are blamed for producing methane, but when you look at the real science, you find that it is produced ultimately from CO2 already in the atmosphere and is shortlived (around 12 years) - it's part of the biogenic carbon cycle (https://clear.ucdavis.edu/explainers/why-methane-cattle-warms-climate-differently-co2-fossil-fuels).

      The figure of 30+% comes from adding on all the peripheral activity surrounding producing beef and dairy products - transport, processing, packaging, more transport etc etc, much of which would apply equally (or probably more) to any vegetable crop that would be grown to replace beef and dairy in the world's diet if we were to stop farming cattle.

      When the 33% is broken down and the actual emissions from cattle are separated out, the true figure for GHG emissions and damage to the climate from cattle farming appears to be something a little over 3%.

      The misrepresentation is more of 'bigcorp' trying to deflect attention away from their squandering of energy, and production of CO2, which remains the single biggest and most damaging GHG (and as much is produced from fossil fuels, is all new to the atmosphere, so adding to CO2 levels). Pretending that it is all the fault of cows and cutting out livestock farming will make the sum total of bugger all difference.

      Food production (including livestock) is essential for human survival, crypto generation isn't, and is massively wasteful in a way which makes cattle methane look very insignificant.

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Lying with numbers

        But but .... green

      2. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Lying with numbers

        I think it is correct to include all emissions connected with an activity, in the case of beef also the fertiliser for the feed production for example.

        Substituting beef with pulses (to get essential amino acids) would reduce emissions significantly, if you like to eat it is a different question.

        1. nobody who matters Bronze badge

          Re: Lying with numbers

          ".....Substituting beef with pulses (to get essential amino acids) would reduce emissions significantly...."

          If you take your own advice, and include all emissions associated with the commodity, I very much doubt if there is much difference.

          Grassland locks up considerable amounts of carbon in the form of soil organic matter. Plough it up and cultivate it, and thereby aerating the soil accelerates the decomposition of the organic matter - combining the carbon with oxygen from the air to produce more CO2. Added to which, the transportation and processing emissions for pulse crops is likely to be very similar to that of beef, with the added fossil fuels burned in the process of tilling the soil, planting and husbandry of the crop, and the harvesting (and probably drying) before it can be sent for processing for food.

          Those who push the vegan agenda seem to miss all this detail from their calculations, and end up with the wrong answers every time.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Lying with numbers

        Of course your argument favors the conclusion of the study reported in the article, since if correct it lowers the relative environmental impact of beef production, making Bitcoin even worse in comparison.

        (I have no agenda vis-a-vis beef production myself. I eat beef, and have not reviewed the relevant research in any detail.)

    4. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Lying with numbers

      So says someone obviously earning an Ill gotten living off crypto.

      The power consumption associated with mining, even in an asic, is well known. That is all demand that would not have been there in the absence of crypto.

      When we have working fusion and/or over abundance of renewables, fine, have your stupid magic bean token system.

      The rest of us would rather not see the frivolous use of limited resources on the major enabler for digital crime.

      1. dc_m

        Re: Lying with numbers

        Either that, or dumped by an economist!

      2. xyz123

        Re: Lying with numbers

        yet without a hint of irony you're prepared to "waste" electricity with your post that accomplishes nothing whatsoever?

        then again you'll probably claim I'm [Unfounded accusations and random slurs go here]

        1. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: Lying with numbers

          I can claim your reply has wasted energy, as has mine. But an infintesimal qty compared to how much has been burned by Crypto in the 10 seconds to write this.

          My opinion of crypto (kill it with fire) because of its primarily criminal use is shared by a lot of people. Ransomware enablers are not welcome. So that includes software.like Windows, technology like Crypto, and Nation States like North Korea.

    5. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: Lying with numbers

      You so nearly had it right.

      --Which is about par for the course when economists stray out of their own field--

      should be

      Which is about par for the course when economists are still breathing (once that ceases things improve)

      --That said I agree that Bitcoin needs to be shoved into this century,--

      No need for "into this century"

  3. Stuart 18
    Joke

    MonVegetarianist is the only way to go

    Pay for your carrots with coins only!! Uncertain if any of the inks\paper treatments aren't made from seal tears for use in notes???

  4. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Given the heating effects of bovine gaseous by-products

    have they remembered to account for all the damage caused by the hot air and noxious fumes emitted from the pro-crypto speakers' arguments?

  5. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    So they have a beef with cryptomining?

    Sorry, couldn't resist...

    1. Gob Smacked
      WTF?

      Re: So they have a beef with cryptomining?

      Another one for you: https://beefinitiative.com/

  6. cd

    Hear Me Out...

    Let's combine the two into BeefCoin. It will utilise Proof-of-Steak.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Hear Me Out...

      Don't listen to this bull, he's telling Porkies. I'm telling BitOink is where it's at!

  7. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    And thus was invented Cow-Fart powered Crypto Mining

    Massive cow sheds, methane capturing equipment, gas powered electricity generation = profits!

    Jacket keeps the muck off.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: And thus was invented Cow-Fart powered Crypto Mining

      There are farmers already doing this, but they tend to keep the power produced to run the farm first rather than crypto mining as it reduced their costs (once they have paid for the infrastructure to generate the power)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beef at least tastes good

    Crypto is totally useless

  9. MrGreen

    Only Part of the Story

    Isn’t it interesting how all these studies compare Bitcoin with other things they don’t agree with, like oil or beef farming?

    Why didn’t they compare usage against the fiat banking system, tumble driers or Christmas lights, air conditioning or the aviation industry?

    Ultimately the figures used in this study are incorrect. Claiming Bitcoin mining is worse for the environment than gold mining is laughable. These figures have been presented for many years.

    The author clearly doesn’t understand that Bitcoin and crypto currencies are not the same. This basic flaw in his understanding undermines the credibility of any of the data presented.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only Part of the Story

      Warning crypto-schill.

  10. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Oooh, the irony,...

    Vegans promote the vegan lifestyle as a way to save the planet, but I see online Vegan stores that accept Bitcoin for payment, and there was 'VeganCoin' as yet another bunch of hipsters shouted "I want a slice!",. .. and well, they are rather talking out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.

  11. xyz123

    FTFY: "bitcoin worse than beef" says economist paid by billionaire to throw out more scare stories.

    Billionaires that paid for this story so they can frighten smaller BTC holders into selling cheap, so the rich can buy their BTC and HODL waiting for value to go up.

  12. lvm
    Devil

    all encryption is bad

    All encryption uses CPU, wastes electricity, generates heat and melts baby seals. Indiscriminate and unwarranted use of https could be doing even more harm. Accessing banking site over https is justified and sensible, watching cat videos over https is pointless and harmful to the environment.

  13. Potemkine! Silver badge

    How does bitcoin taste? Like thin air I guess?

    == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

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