Let’s take a look into how the state of Bitcoin mining operations has changed around the world. Up until recently, nearly three-quarters of Bitcoin mining happened to take place within certain provinces of China due to the fact that energy was cheap and abundant. The map below shows that China accounted for about 73% of total Bitcoin mining.
However, China has recently been hardening its stance on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. As a result, most Bitcoin mining operations are moving from China to other developing countries, where regulations are weaker and there’s an abundance of cheap, dirty energy. The image below shows the Bitcoin mining map as recently as December 2021, where we can see that China’s global share of Bitcoin mining operations has dropped drastically.
One such example of a developing country that’s seen an increase in mining operations is Kazakhstan. Only about 1% of Kazakhstan’s energy mix is actually renewable energy. In many developing countries such as Kazakhstan, the cheapest source of energy is burning fossil fuels, which leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Many mining operations have relocated to these developing countries, which exacerbates the environmental conditions of those who are already vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. Some countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have cheaper access to renewable energy, incentivizing many mining operations to move to these countries. However, this already takes away the benefits of renewable energy from local citizens for domestic usage.
Many countries’ solutions to this problem is to include stricter regulations on Bitcoin mining, as they believe that energy consumption will decrease and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions will be somewhat mitigated. However, crackdowns only result in operations relocating elsewhere, and aren’t actually effective at stopping mining activity.
Furthermore, these regulations don’t address the root of the issue, which is the model of mining . The proof-of-work model that Bitcoin employs is very energy intensive, and the best solution for many mining operations is to come up with a more energy efficient way of mining. We’ve already seen a decrease in energy consumption that comes with a proof-of-stake model, and if we are to actually address the root problem, we must come up with similar solutions.
Although climate change is a problem that is exacerbated by crypto mining in developing countries, we can’t ignore the many positive impacts that cryptocurrency has had in many of these countries. If we want citizens to continue to benefit, then the answer to this problem should be to come up with more energy-efficient models instead of shifting to regulation.