Bitcoin is less ‘digital gold’ and more ‘digital beef’, according to a study that suggests the cryptocurrency has a greater impact on the climate than gold mining and natural gas extraction


Bitcoin has a greater impact on the climate than gold mining and the extraction of natural gas or the raising of cattle for meat. Research from the University of New Mexico, published in the journal Scientific Reports, assessed the climate cost of various commodities as a share of value.

Some, such as coal, cause almost as much damage as the entire value of the market they support, a ratio of 95%, according to the analysis. Other commodities, such as pork production, have a huge impact on the climate in absolute terms, but only because the market is so massive.

However, Bitcoin falls between the two. According to economists, climate damage from the digital currency’s production has averaged 35% of its market value over the past five years, peaking at 82% in 2020.

This value is comparable to that of beef, which causes damage equal to 33% of its market, or natural gas, which reaches 46%. And it’s well above gold, the commodity that cryptocurrency advocates most compare it to, which has a climate impact of just 4% of its market value, thanks to its enormous global value that eclipses the large environmental impact of its extraction.

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