Bitcoin is terrible for the environment – can it ever go green?


Cryptocurrency mining uses huge amounts of energy, but activists are urging for a change in its code to reduce its environmental impact

On the corner of New York’s Park Avenue and 52nd Street, curious onlookers recently stopped in front of a giant green skull sitting in the bed of a truck parked outside the office of Fidelity Investments, the global financial management company.

The “Skull of Satoshi”, named after the pseudonymous bitcoin developer Satoshi Nakamoto, is composed almost entirely of computer circuit boards and fitted with tall smokestacks usually found atop coal power plants.

The artifact is a project of artist Benjamin Von Wong and is a reference to the massive amounts of carbon emitted from mining the cryptocurrency bitcoin, an endeavor Fidelity is now pursuing.

Bitcoin is chiefly known as a wild investment vehicle that – along with many other cryptocurrencies – can seemingly make or lose fortunes overnight in a market where values go up and down quickly and by large margins.

But what worries environmentalists and others is the huge amount of electricity used in generating bitcoin and other such currencies – energy that often traces back to fossil fuels and so has a corresponding impact on the climate crisis.

As major financial brands speculate in the cryptocurrency world, environmental campaigners want to make sure they know that they are not just taking a financial gamble; there is also an environmental risk.

Some are hoping that they can persuade those institutions to try to lessen the impact of crypto-mining. “It’s a big step for a financial institution like Fidelity to launch their own crypto platform. So now more than ever, we need their help,” said Rolf Skar, campaign director at Greenpeace USA, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization.

It is a complex situation. But here is a guide to the key issues.