Bill Gates worried about the carbon footprint of Bitcoin

Bill Gates

It’s not often do you see Bill Gates put on his worried face, but the once richest man on the planet is concerned about Bitcoin. Concerned about the carbon footprint of the cryptocurrency that started it all.

As Bitcoin continues to climb — it has just retaken its $1 trillion market cap — and gain new fans in corporate America, skeptics are increasingly asking whether this is worth the huge environmental cost, one that will only go up.

In a recent interview, Gates was very clear on the huge carbon footprint of Bitcoin, which he considers a red flag.

“Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind, and so it’s not a great climate thing.”

Here is the full Clubhouse interview, with relevant bits at the 33:22 mark:

Depending on which study you read, the annual carbon emissions from the electricity required to mine Bitcoin and process its transactions are either equal to all of New Zealand, or more than all of Argentina.

Putting this into perspective, one Bitcoin transaction is equivalent to the carbon footprint of 735,121 Visa transactions or 55,280 hours of watching YouTube. Critics of this comparison, point out that the average Bitcoin transaction is worth about $16,000, while the average Visa transaction is worth $46.37.

But while there are disagreements over how big the industry’s carbon footprint is, but no one disputes how big it is.

And given how Bitcoin is coded, how its blockchain network works, the more popular it becomes, the larger its carbon footprint will grow.

This is creating tension within the business community, as companies and investors are focusing more and more on climate change. Shareholders are pushing organizations to reduce their carbon footprints and exposure to fossil fuel.

They might raise similar concerns about Bitcoin.

This is a conflict that might escalate as companies are increasingly adopting Bitcoin, whether by allowing customers to conduct transactions on their platforms or by investing in the cryptocurrency directly.

Pressure, then, is on making Bitcoin greener.

And Gates has left the door open to having his mind changed. He capped it off by saying that if it is green electricity, and it’s not crowding out other uses, eventually maybe it might be OK.

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