A network supporting bitcoin virtual currency is expected to require all of the world's current energy production to support itself within three years, according to estimates.
The amount of energy needed to support bitcoins has increased significantly in recent months, as its price has risen to record levels. On Monday, a bitcoin was worth around $ 16,500, an increase of twenty times from the beginning of 2017.
Bitcoin mining – the process of generating new currency units by confirming bitcoin transactions on an online ledger called blockchain – requires computing power, which is used to solve the complex mathematical puzzles used in the mining process. These problems are designed to become more complicated as more computers join the cryptocurrency network.
The analysis of how much energy currently requires to extract the bitcoin suggests that it is greater than the current energy consumption of 159 individual countries, including Ireland, Nigeria and Uruguay. The Bitcoin energy consumption index of the cryptocurrency platform The digiconomo uses them on a par with Denmark, consuming 33 terawatts of electricity every year.
"As the mining sector can provide a solid revenue stream, people are very willing to make energy-hungry machines work to get a piece in. Over the years, this has led to the total energy consumption of the bitcoin network to grow in epic proportions ", explains Digiconomist in a blog that accompanies the index.
The energy consumption of the bitcoin network has increased by 25% in the last month, according to the Digiconomo. If this growth continues, it would see the network consume as much energy as the United States by 2019, and as much energy as the entire world by the end of 2020.
This projection is purely hypothetical and, in order for it to be realized, the bitcoin would need to continue its remarkable growth and that the global production of energy remains stable. A similar estimate created by ZeroHedge in November set the date as early as February 2020, although this was the time when bitcoin growth was even more pronounced.
There was also a debate about how accurate Digiconomo figures are. The investor of cryptocurrency Marc Bevand suggests that the index overestimates the electricity consumption of bitcoin miners from 1.5 to 3.6 times.
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According to estimates by the Digiconomo, the annual ecological footprint of bitcoin is close to 16,000 kilotons of carbon dioxide. This is largely due to the fact that the bitcoin network is mainly powered by coal-fired power plants in China.
But while computer server farms in warehouses are more commonly used to extract cryptocurrency, cybercriminals have recently turned to botnets to exploit the processing power of victims' computers.
More than half a billion people could inadvertently extract cryptocurrencies from their computers, smartphones and other devices, according to research conducted at the beginning of the year by AdGuard.
The hidden software was found embedded in 220 popular websites, which have an aggregate audience of over 500 million people. The mining tool hijacks the central processing unit (CPU) of a computer and uses it to run the background mining software.
Websites including Showtime and the torrenting site It has been found that PirateBay includes such software, while researchers say the trend will likely continue to increase incentives with the price of bitcoins.
"How much money did these websites make?" We estimate their combined profit at over $ 43,000, "AdGuard researchers said in an October blog detailing their discovery. At that time, a bitcoin was worth around $ 5000.
"Right now there are not millions, but this money was made in three weeks at almost zero cost … this analysis well illustrates the whole web, so it's safe to say that one in every 40 websites currently threatens the cryptocurrency ".