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How is it That Bitcoin is Becoming a Major Contributor to Carbon Emissions?

HUDSON VALLEY PRESS — t’s hard to believe that bitcoin could be the final nail in the coffin causing irreversible climate change

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By EarthTalk

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that bitcoin, a virtual currency that few of us have heard of and no one I know uses, is becoming a major contributor to carbon emissions?

– Troy Sussman, Bowie, MD

It’s hard to believe that bitcoin, the best known of a group of new “cryptocurrencies” that many believe to be the future of money, could be the final nail in the coffin causing irreversible climate change. But a recent study from University of Hawai’i at Manoa researchers found that “projected bitcoin usage, if it follows the rate of adoption of other broadly adopted technologies, could alone produce enough carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to push warming above 2°C within less than three decades.” According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we can only hope to avoid the most cataclysmic effects of global warming if we can limit the rise in average global temperature to 2°C.

The reason bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies generate so much CO2 is that they require massive amounts of electricity, and our grid is still supplied primarily by fossil fuels. Bitcoin transactions are recorded and processed by dispersed individuals known as “miners” who group them together in blocks and add them to larger “chains” which serve as public ledgers of transactions.

“The verification process by miners, who compete to decipher a computationally demanding proof-of-work in exchange for bitcoins, requires large amounts of electricity,” reports study co-author Randi Rollins. Rollins estimates that bitcoin transactions accounted for some 69 million metric tons of CO2 emission in 2017 alone—and expects bitcoin-related emissions to rise sharply in the near future as the payment technology is adopted by millions around the world. If society adopts bitcoin as quickly as it adopted previous wildly popular “technologies” (e.g. credit cards, dishwashers), increased electricity demands could overwhelm efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

“We cannot predict the future of Bitcoin, but if implemented at a rate even close to the slowest pace at which other technologies have been incorporated, it will spell very bad news for climate change and the people and species impacted by it,” says the study’s lead author Camilo Mora.

“With the ever-growing devastation created by hazardous climate conditions, humanity is coming to terms with the fact that climate change is as real and personal as it can be,” she adds. “Clearly, any further development of cryptocurrencies should critically aim to reduce electricity demand, if the potentially devastating consequences of 2°C of global warming are to be avoided.”

Critics of the report counter that the global electric power sector—not to mention computers and cryptocurrency “rigs”—are getting significantly more energy efficient every year. Also, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies might not be as widely adopted as researchers assume.

But isn’t it better we know now about the potential climate risks of bitcoin so we can work to direct the technology’s development in as environmentally friendly a way as possible? It certainly would be a shame to suffer the effects of runaway climate change after doing so much to lower our carbon footprints just because we neglected to hold cryptocurrencies to the same efficiency standards as the rest of the technologies we rely on.

This article originally appeared in the Hudson Valley Press.

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GOP Candidate for State Controller Lanhee Chen Known for Bipartisanship

Chen, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is respected among Republicans and Democrats for his work across party lines. President Barack Obama appointed him to serve on the bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board. And he has served as adviser to several Republican elected officials, including U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

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Lanhee Chen. COF.org photo.

By Bo Tefu, California Black Media

Attorney and Stanford Law School lecturer Lanhee Chen is a Republican running for California State Controller.

Chen, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is respected among Republicans and Democrats for his work across party lines. President Barack Obama appointed him to serve on the bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board. And he has served as adviser to several Republican elected officials, including U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The Los Angeles Times recently endorsed Chen, stating that his bipartisan experience is an indication that he would be independent in a state government that is majority Democratic.

Chen spoke with California Black Media (CBM) about his plans to promote fiscal accountability, transparency and the state’s economic advancement.

The conversation has been edited for clarity and concision.

CBM: From your perspective, what is the State Controller’s main function?

Lanhee Chen (L.C.) The State Controller is the chief financial watchdog for the state of California. It’s the individual who gives California taxpayers accountability over every single dollar the state spends. The Controller oversees the disbursement of state funds.

The Controller’s office also has an unclaimed property department. The state keeps a catalogue of all the information people need to claim money they forgot they had.

Perhaps the most important thing the controller does is audit. The Controller is responsible for auditing programs ran by the state government. These audits help the Controller figure out where and how the state spends taxpayers’ money.

The main objectives of this role are financial management accounting and fiscal responsibility.

CBM: Why are you running for Controller?

L.C.: I believe that when we think about the challenges California faces right now, some of those challenges are created by a lack of good fiscal management. A lack of a real set of accountability principles around how our money is being spent. My background in policymaking, academics, and business is exactly the kind of experience that is needed for this job. I’ve spent my career solving problems in fiscal and public policy.

All that experience has prepared me to serve in a role which is predominantly about making sure that the state is spending money wisely. The Controller’s independence from other statewide elected officials is the most important. My track record shows that I have a history of working as a bipartisan problem solver.

CBM: Do you feel being a Republican is a disadvantage or an advantage?

L.C.: The obvious disadvantage is the sheer number of Democrats that outnumber the number of Republicans in the state. There are also some ways that the Republican Party hasn’t been a welcoming and inviting place for people of all backgrounds. I have an immigrant background. I grew up in Orange County. My parents came to the U.S. and managed to put together and raise a great family.

One of the major advantages of this job is that I get to be the one asking tough questions who isn’t in the ‘go along to get along club.’ My background and political affiliation will be helpful in terms of making sure we get answers to tough questions.

In terms of working with Democrats, I have a demonstrated record of working with Democrats and I don’t have an issue working with people who want transparency in terms of how we’re spending our money and where it’s going.

CBM: What experience do you bring to this position?

L.C.: Along with my policy background, I’ve served on boards of regional and community healthcare systems. I’ve also been an entrepreneur and investor for small businesses. My experience helps me understand the business and financial aspects of this job. I know how to look at the financials of our state and figure out what’s going right, what’s going wrong, and how do we give people more information.

Seeing I am also an educator, I can help people understand what’s happening in our state budget.

CBM: If you win, what will be your first priority?

L.C.: The first thing we need is transparency into every dollar the state spends. I want to create a fully transparent, searchable, machine-readable database that allows you to figure out exactly our state is spending money. This project will help us set up a government transparency portal that gives us a sense of whether the spending was effective or not.

Second, I want to use the role’s auditing power and dig deeper into how and what we’re spending on. We need clarity on funding that supports the state’s priority issues such as K-12 education, homelessness, and health care.

CBM: A lot of Black and Brown people work for state government. What is your view on unfunded pension liabilities?

L.C.: Ideally, promises made should be promises kept.

I have a big problem with the idea that we play politics and interfere with pension funds. The primary goal of pension funds is to keep people’s retirement earnings safe and ensure that we’re maximizing the return on the investment that we make. Unfortunately, the state isn’t doing that in a lot of cases. CalPERS and CalSTRS both have not been truthful with us for too many years about what their expectations are about how much in unfunded liabilities we have.

CBM: How would you describe your leadership style? And how does that match with the demands of being the State Controller?

L.C.: My leadership style is about establishing goals and having principles. But it’s also critical to understanding that there’s a time to stand on principle and a time to stand alone. That is a delicate balance. Integrity and ethical leadership are pivotal to making sure everybody’s rowing in the right direction.

This role calls for a leader that isn’t afraid of managing conflict. We won’t not always be on the same page. Fiscal responsibility can only be achieved through transparency and accountability. It is my priority to be the type of leader that lets people know that I’m happy to work together, but I won’t back down on my values or compromise my independence.

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Business

Emergency Federal Drought Relief Available

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

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The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.

Marin and all other California counties to be eligible for assistance

Courtesy of Marin County

As California and the West Coast enter their third year of drought, Marin County and the state’s other 57 counties have been declared primary disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The dry conditions are bad news for Marin’s farmers and ranchers, but the disaster designation status makes available emergency loans for agricultural businesses.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans to non-farm small businesses that do business directly with farmers and ranchers, such as truckers and suppliers of agricultural equipment or services. Eligible businesses may apply for disaster loans through Dec. 8, 2022.

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

“We want to raise awareness of the financial opportunities this drought designation provides because it may help some of these small businesses hampered by our continuing severe drought conditions,” said Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stefan Parnay.

The federal commitment to assist businesses because of drought-related hardship extends to 23 other western states in addition to California. Small non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits of any size may qualify for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the drought not occurred.

In July 2021, the State of California added Marin to its list of counties falling under its state of emergency for drought and record-breaking high temperatures statewide. Governor Gavin Newsom made the drought official in 50 of the state’s 58 counties. Since then, state agencies partnered with local water suppliers to promote conservation tips through the Save Our Water campaign.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin. It also made the County eligible for California Disaster Assistance and other forms of state funding and resources. The local declaration cleared the way for state authorities to aid response and recovery efforts available to the County, water suppliers, farmers, impacted businesses and residents.

Marin Water, the municipal water district serving the majority of water customers in the county, and the Novato-based North Marin Water District (NMWD) are staying in contact with the County about drought conditions. Both water districts have declared water shortage emergencies and enacted mandatory conservation measures. Marin Water serves more than 191,000 customers in central and southern Marin. NWMD serves a customer base of about 64,000 in and around Novato and parts of coastal West Marin. For localized details, see the water rules webpages for Marin Water and NMWD.

Marin residents have been asked to support local agricultural producers who have been affected by the drought right on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 numerous Marin ranchers had to import water by truck to keep their animals alive while also reducing their herds. With far less vegetation for grazing because of the ongoing drought, animals are eating imported feed shipped from other states at extremely high costs to the ranchers. Additionally, a few Marin crop producers had to import water by truck to keep crops alive and fallowed approximately 150 acres, or about 50% of the 300 crop acres in the county.

“As the region enters its third year of drought, this season is going to take a significant toll on our agricultural industry,” Parnay said.

The Board of Supervisors last year approved $150,000 in drought relief funds for the agricultural industry and another $250,000 for general drought relief needs to augment other state and federal aid.

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Bay Area

Dream Fund: Entrepreneurs Can Apply for $10,000 Grants Through $35M State Program

Although a number of reports suggest that the outlook has begun to be more positive as the U.S. economy continues to bounce back defying the odds, and many Black businessowners have also become more optimistic, access to credit and technical support remain a challenge for many who had to dip into their own finances to keep their lights on.

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Everett Sands, CEO Lendistry. Lendistry photo. 
Everett Sands, CEO Lendistry. Lendistry photo. 

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

Since 2017, there has been a 9.8% increase of new small businesses — firms with less than 500 employees — in the United States. Over the past two years alone, over 10 million applications were submitted to start new small businesses across the country, according to the Small Business Administration.

That growth trend is true for California, too, where there are about 4.1 million small businesses, the most in the country. Those companies make up 99.8% of all business in California and employ about 7.2 million people.

But for Black-owned and other minority owned small businesses across the country, there was a steep decline in numbers, almost 41%, due to the pandemic, a Census Population Survey found in 2020. During that same time, nearly 44% of minority-owned small businesses were at risk of shutting down, a Small Business Majority report found.

Although a number of reports suggest that the outlook has begun to be more positive as the U.S. economy continues to bounce back defying the odds, and many Black businessowners have also become more optimistic, access to credit and technical support remain a challenge for many who had to dip into their own finances to keep their lights on.

Recognizing the outsized contribution small businesses make to the health of the California economy and the hit many of the smallest of small business have taken during the pandemic, the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) has been making grants of up to $25,000 to small business in the state.

In its latest round of funding called the Dream Fund, which is now accepting applications on a rolling basis, CalOSBA has partnered with Lendistry, a Los Angeles-based, minority-led small business and commercial real estate lender to administer the $35 million grant portion of its program. The fund provides $10,000 to each small business that qualifies.

To become eligible, California-based small business owners will have to complete training at one of the centers run by the state’s Technical Assistance Expansion Program (TAEP) and receive a certificate.

“For the millions of Californians that have dreams of owning their own business, this grant coupled with one-on-one counseling and business expertise from hundreds of counselors at our eighty-seven Technical Assistance Centers, has the power to jumpstart their dreams,” says Tara Lynn Gray, director of CalOSBA.

Jay King, president and CEO of the Sacramento-based California Black Chamber of Commerce, says he applauds Gov. Gavin Newsom for understanding the historic systemic challenges minority businesses face and for “doing something about it.”

But giving Black businesses grants are not a “cure-all,” he says.

“It is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound if we don’t do more to really fix the problems small businesses face,” King explains. “Ninety-six percent of Black businesses are mini- or micro- that means they make less than $100,000 or less than $35,000 a year, respectively,” King continued. “Only 4% of our businesses earn more than $100,000 annually. We have to put more resources and technical support around these businesses.”

King says informing Black business owners about opportunities like the Dream Fund and making sure they know how to apply for or access the funding is critical to making sure the people who need the help gets it.

“You have to get down into our communities,” he said. “You have to reach people through groups that are plugged into our communities to get the word out. We do not hear about these kinds of programs enough. We definitely don’t benefit from them enough.”

Everett K. Sands, the CEO of Lendistry, says he is excited to help California’s new businesses access the capital they need to “begin on their journeys.

“Over the past two years, almost 10 million new businesses have been created in the U.S.,” he says. “With record numbers of new small businesses entering the marketplace, many of which are owned by women and minorities, programs like California Dream Fund pave the way for a more robust and equitable economy as these new businesses make the leap from employing just their founders to employing their communities.”

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