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Bitcoin mining is worse for the environment since China banned it

Euro News | Pascale Davies

Carbon footprint crypto map - Bitcoin mining is worse for the environment since China banned it

Despite a crackdown on Bitcoin in China last year, mining the largest cryptocurrency actually got much dirtier and emits around the same amount of CO2 annually as a country the size of Greece, a new study shows.

The joint study, titled Revisiting Bitcoin's Carbon Footprint, showed that the share of renewable electricity sources that fuel the Bitcoin network may have decreased from an average of 41.6 per cent in 2020 to 25.1 per cent in August 2021.

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It also showed Bitcoin could be responsible for 65.4 megatonnes of CO2 annually, which is comparable to country-level emissions in Greece.

In May 2021, Chinese authorities ordered a crackdown on crypto mining and trading and regulators banned financial institutions from offering services related to cryptocurrencies.

One of the reasons for the decline in renewable energy sources powering Bitcoin mining is because the Bitcoin network no longer had access to hydropower from the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, said Alex de Vries, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the School of Business and Economics at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

"The reason why they had that amount of renewables was because within China, they could move around and they could get hydropower during the summer months and then in the winter months, they would be using coal," he told Euronews Next.

He said as soon as China banned Bitcoin mining, they moved to Kazakhstan and to the US.

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"Kazakhstan coal replaced the Chinese coal, and Kazakhstan uses hardcore, which is the worst type of coal, the most carbon-intensive type of coal,” de Vries said, adding that in the US, miners replaced hydropower with natural gas.

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