By now, you’ve probably heard the environmentalist knock on bitcoin, including apocalyptic claims that it will use up all of the world’s energy and will single-handedly increase global temperatures until the planet is uninhabitable.
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“Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are terrible for the environment,” declares Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “It’s an extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions,” pronounces former Federal Reserve Chair and current Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “It’s a way to both hide dirty money and destroy the environment at the same time,” says Daily Show host Trevor Noah.
Such environmentalist attacks on bitcoin are best understood as a strategy by economic, media, and political elites to undermine a powerful new form of money that they can’t control. Critics distort the basic facts about what’s known as bitcoin “mining,” the process through which a global network of computers maintain the bitcoin network through computation. Though energy intensive, this process is what makes bitcoin a truly decentralized monetary system.
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Footage Credit: Jim Epstein and Noor Greene
Produced by Regan Taylor; graphics by Isaac Reese; audio post-production by Ian Keyser