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Abstract

In the 1850s, the Gold Rush started in the United States, and in 2010, an analogous phenomenon, the Cryptoboom, began. Similar to the Gold Rush, Bitcoin’s initial boom was marred by the deleterious effects that mining for valuable coins had on the environment, but there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the negative effect cryptocurrencies have on the environment. Cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and the blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrencies, have been widely embraced by many people, corporations, and even entire governments for a multitude of reasons. Some have embraced the fruits of blockchain to use as a decentralized currency for buying and selling, some have used cryptocurrencies as an investment to generate profits, some have used blockchains to create digital assets, and others have used blockchains to store records and databases. For society, due to the limitless applications, the invention of blockchain technology may be on par with the printing press, the steam engine, and the internet. Unfortunately, the process of creating, maintaining, and transferring cryptocurrencies has an enormous adverse effect on the environment.

The pattern of destructive and wasteful behaviors that accompanied gold, silver, and coal mining now accompanies cryptomining, and a major environmental catastrophe is looming in the future. The electricity and computer parts required for cryptomining create an astronomical amount of carbon dioxide emissions and electronic waste, which further increases the threat of a climate disaster. However, all is not lost. There are steps that can be taken to mitigate these environmental impacts. These steps include government intervention in the form of regulations on carbon emissions and tax incentives for using sustainable energy sources, private sector innovation, which includes manufacturing more durable specialty GPUs and switching to proof of stake, and initiative by individuals, which encompasses reusing and recycling parts used for cryptomining.

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