WE'VE LONG KNOWN there's an environmental toll that comes from mining and maintaining cryptocurrency, but we've never seen it put so starkly before.
A new tool from the University of Cambridge shows that Bitcoin - the most popular of the imaginary currencies - consumes more energy than the whole of Switzerland. And there's no delicious chocolate or novelty cuckoo clocks to show for that, either.
The numbers fluctuate, but Bitcoin has had a narrow lead over Switzerland each time we've checked in. Speaking of checks, the Czech Republic is narrowly in front, but earlier today it too was eclipsed by Bitcoin energy use. Austria and Colombia are next in line, should Bitcoin surge over the coming days and months.
To be clear, the current estimate from the site - 59.19TWh per year - is only around 0.25 per cent of the world's entire electricity consumption, but it's still an alarming total for a currency that isn't widely accepted.
To put that into perspective, the site claims that this total electricity consumption could power all the tea kettles in the UK for 11 years, which is a rare example of a stat that's even less helpful than the raw numbers.
Still, the researchers like to provide different ways of thinking about the figures. "We want to use comparisons that set the narrative," the tool's co-creator Michel Rauchs told BBC News. "Visitors to the website can make up their own mind as to whether it seems large or small."
If you're in the camp that bafflingly considers this a small figure, you should know that measuring the energy that goes into Bitcoin is notoriously difficult. As the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance notes in its blog post introducing the tool: "Reliable estimates of Bitcoin's electricity usage are rare.
"In most cases, they only provide a one-time snapshot and the numbers often show substantial discrepancies from one model to another."
So, in fact, 59.19TWh is the researcher's estimate, but it could be a bit better or a whole lot worse. At the time of writing, the lower estimate is 22.03TWh, while the top end reaches 178.65TWh. The former would put it below Denmark, while the latter would put it somewhere between Egypt and Thailand. Yikes. µ
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