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Preying on the poor? Opportunities and challenges for tackling the social and environmental threats of cryptocurrencies for vulnerable and low-income communities

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Abstract

The rate of adoption of some cryptocurrencies is triggering alarm from energy researchers and social scientists concerned about the industry’s growing environmental and social impacts. In this paper we argue that the unsustainable trajectory of some cryptocurrencies disproportionately impacts poor and vulnerable communities where cryptocurrency producers and other actors take advantage of economic instabilities, weak regulations, and access to cheap energy and other resources. Globally, over 100 million people hold cryptocurrency, mostly as a speculative asset. The digital infrastructure behind the most popular cryptocurrency, bitcoin, currently requires as much energy as the whole of Thailand, with a carbon footprint exceeding the gold mining industry. Should bitcoin’s mass adoption continue, an escalating climate crisis is inevitable, disproportionately exacerbating social and environmental challenges for communities already experiencing multiple dimensions of deprivation. In mitigating these impacts, the paper considers 4 potential regulatory pathways, including: 1) promoting voluntary private-sector commitments to using only renewable energy, 2) encouraging a system of voluntary carbon offsetting, 3) using existing financial regulations and tax frameworks, and 4) imposing national and/or international bans on cryptocurrency ‘mining’. The paper argues that effective environmental regulation of cryptocurrencies is urgently required, both to reduce the threat of catastrophic climate change, and to help the world’s poorest towards sustainable development. However, regulating cryptocurrency mining in any context is likely to require a combination of efforts and is unlikely to result in win-win outcomes for all.

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Globally, electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is now a part of daily life. When this equipment becomes waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE or E-waste), however, it needs to be properly processed, for use as a source of materials for future production and renewable energy, and to minimize both the exploitation of raw materials and the deleterious effects on both the environment and human health. A large quantity of e-waste is generated in both India and China, and both countries still suffer from an entrenched informal e-waste processing sector. Consequently, valuable materials in e-waste are disposed in open land, rather than being properly extracted for reuse and recycling. In this article we note that the major portion of e-waste in China and India is collected by the informal sector and treated with primitive methods. Additionally, illegal shifting agents also play a role by mislabeling e-waste and exporting them to developing countries. This article proposes that: the implementation of e-waste management laws and policies for proper e-waste collection, treatment and recycling, better educate consumers on the dangers of e-waste contamination, restrict the illegal movement of e-waste across borders, and support the development of a formal, regulated e-waste processing industry by funding incentive programs constructing recycling infrastructure. These measures should increase the recycling capacity and decrease the amount of WEEE contaminating the environment and endangering human health.
Article
A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. Digital signatures provide part of the solution, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted third party is still required to prevent double-spending. We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network. The network timestamps transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work, forming a record that cannot be changed without redoing the proof-of-work. The longest chain not only serves as proof of the sequence of events witnessed, but proof that it came from the largest pool of CPU power. As long as a majority of CPU power is controlled by nodes that are not cooperating to attack the network, they'll generate the longest chain and outpace attackers. The network itself requires minimal structure. Messages are broadcast on a best effort basis, and nodes can leave and rejoin the network at will, accepting the longest proof-of-work chain as proof of what happened while they were gone.
Measuring Global Crypto Users: A Study to Measure Market Size Using On-Chain Metrics
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Annualized Total Bitcoin Footprints
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Is gold turning green?
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Bitcoin: China’s crackdown isn’t enough - only a global effort can stop crypto’s monstrous energy demand
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The Shady Cryptocurrency Boom on the Post-Soviet Frontier
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Bitcoin isn't getting greener: four environmental myths about cryptocurrency debunked
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How Long Does it Take to Mine One Bitcoin? (2021) - Decrypt
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Bitcoin Will Follow Ethereum And Move to Proof-of-Stake, Says Bitcoin Suisse Founder
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Bitcoin Mining Council Officially Open Now, Calls Energy Consumption 'feature
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Crypto Climate Accord: Bitcoin greenwashing or game-changer?
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The Routledge Handbook of Economic Theology
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Mining Council Will 'Defend' Bitcoin Against 'Uninformed' and 'Hostile' Energy Critics
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Luxxfolio signs Crypto Climate Accord, reflecting commitment to green cryptocurrency mining and exchange
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