Bitcoin mining emissions in China will hit 130 million tonnes by 2024

The carbon emissions associated with mining bitcoin have accelerated rapidly in China, and they’ll soon outstrip the full total gross annual emissions of mid-sized Europe.

Analysis by Guan Dabo at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and his colleagues suggests that the full total carbon footprint of bitcoin mining in China will peak in 2024, releasing around 130 million metric tonnes of carbon.

This figure exceeds the gross annual carbon emissions of countries including Italy and the Czech Republic.

By 2024, bitcoin mining in China will require 297 terawatt-hours of energy and account for approximately 5.4 % of the carbon emissions from creating electricity in the country.

Mining bitcoin depends on computers racing to resolve mathematical puzzles, with miners acquiring bitcoin for being the first ever to process a batch of verified transactions.

The amount of bitcoin awarded because of this are halved every four years, and the puzzles have grown to be more challenging and require more computing oomph to resolve. The cost of powerful computer equipment and the electricity to perform it has also increased.

The researchers predicted the emissions peak in China in 2024 based on calculations of when the entire cost of mining – the investment in computing equipment and the electricity costs – outweighs the financial rewards of selling mined bitcoin.

They used both financial projections and carbon emissions analysis to model the emissions footprint in China, considering factors such as for example location. “Are you in Shanghai, Beijing, or other places? That does matter since it determines which kind of electricity you utilize,” says Guan. “Overall, from most of China’s bitcoin mining activity, 40 % is powered by coal.”

Bitcoin miners in Beijing or other areas of northern China are extremely likely to be using electricity from coal-powered plants. Mining in southern provinces – especially Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan – is in large part powered by hydroelectricity, says Guan.

Given China’s commitment to a 2060 net-zero carbon goal, regulations to lessen carbon emissions from bitcoin mining and future emergent sectors should be implemented, he says.

Journal reference: Nature Communications , DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22256-3

More on these topics:

  • China
  • bitcoin & cryptocurrency
  • carbon emissions

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