The start of 2023 saw an unexpected rise in the values of crypto markets, with bitcoin token reaching a price of over 22,000 USD. That did not take place for well over four months and the majority of the second half of 2022 brought about only a steady decline in the same value. But, the onset of winter changed that for the cryptosphere, even though the actual reasons for the expansion of value remain unclear. At the same time, the same winter is causing some massive issues presently in Europe, which a month prior was doing the same for most of North America.
This is due to the rampant climate change, where the problems of CO2 emissions are causing a rise in unpredictable weather and also exacerbating the weather anomalies like the massive US winter storm of last year. Presently, much of Europe remains locked in ice and snow, with an energy crisis still looming over the EU in particular. Again, this combination of factors are pointing to the crypto networks that use the proof-of-stake mechanism and generate excess heat. With these mining facilities and plenty of renewable energy sources located on-site, the same setup could prove vital for the coming years.
Climate Change in the Northern Hemisphere
Global climate change is a huge factor in almost any weather-related process on the planet right now. It is likely influencing the appearance of more dangerous winter storms in the Northern Hemisphere in several ways. One way is by warming the Arctic, which can disrupt the polar jet stream and lead to more extreme weather patterns in the mid-latitudes, including more intense winter storms. In the US, the almost exact thing happened in December 2022, when a huge storm descended from the north to cover most of the continent. Additionally, a warming climate can lead to more water vapor in the atmosphere, which can fuel more powerful storms – so far, those water vapors did not appear regularly during the cold months.
Now, with climate change, these will be a regular feature in the coming period, no matter how cold or warm the winter otherwise is. Finally, rising sea levels due to climate change can actively exacerbate the effects of coastal storms. While it is important to note that the relationship between climate change and specific weather events is complex and difficult to assess thoroughly, the nature of the connection is indisputable. That is why the cryptocurrency industry, just like esports, food production, or any other domain, can expect to see such a challenging environment slowly become the norm in the next decades.
In these times where the price of energy is skyrocketing, the potential lying in the crypto mining operations cannot be ignored. Crypto mining rigs that work on proof-of-stake (PoS) networks generate heat as a byproduct of their operation. This heat is made by the process of validating transactions and adding them to the blockchain. The process of validation on PoS networks typically involves stakes (or validators) putting up a certain amount of cryptocurrency as collateral, and then using their computer’s processing power to validate transactions and add them to the blockchain.
This process generates heat, which can be captured and used for various purposes, such as heating buildings. Today, the same is still not done as widely and readily as it can be. Some companies have developed solutions to harness this heat and use it to heat commercial and residential buildings. This is possible by using a process called waste heat recovery in which the heat generated by the crypto mining rigs is captured and used to heat water or air, which is then circulated through a building’s heating system. That can be adjusted to current heating systems as well.
Crypto mining is generating a lot of heat but it is also worth noting that crypto mining operations in general, not just PoS, consume a large amount of energy. This can have a negative impact on the environment if the energy is coming from non-renewable sources such as coal or gas. So, while waste heat recovery can help in some cases, it is important to consider the overall energy consumption when evaluating the environmental impact of crypto mining.
In other words, the energy has to come from renewable sources and it has to be based on systems that work on and off the main grid. That would give these crypto mining ventures a degree of autonomy that would be essential during massive winter storms. With solar panels and even limited wind turbines, a facility could generate energy for its needs but also generate heat for a block of flats, for example. The same heat would be completely independent of both fossil fuel expenditure and the wider national electrical grid.
Challenges and Answers
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and it is clear that the problems it poses are not going away anytime soon. Instead, the chance of them becoming worse is growing with each passing year. The effects of a warming planet are already being felt around the world, from rising sea levels and more intense storms to droughts and heat waves. Winter storms are just one of the elements of that huge and difficult jigsaw puzzle. The crypto industry is no exception, and as it continues to grow, it must adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.
Using excess heat is one of those methods and it will enforce the need for crypto mining to migrate to green sources of power. By transitioning to more sustainable forms of energy, exploring alternative mining methods, and utilizing waste heat recovery, the crypto industry can reduce its environmental footprint and help mitigate the effects of climate change not just in the potential future, but in the present moment as well. Capturing and using heat that is produced by renewable sources of energy is not the most important factor in that puzzle, but is one that is accessible and sensible, putting it at the top of the same list.