On May 12, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would suspend purchases of new vehicles made using Bitcoin. It’s a reversal of his earlier announcement that the automaker would accept payments made using the digital currency in March 2021, and a move that reflects growing concerns about Bitcoin’s impact on the environment.
There’s evidence that these concerns are shared by a significant portion of the public: new research from YouGov Direct reveals that a third of Britons believe cryptocurrencies are bad for the environment (36%). However, with three in ten saying it has no impact either way (30%), one in ten saying it has a positive effect (10%), and a quarter saying they don’t know (24%), this group are still in the minority. This may suggest that environmental messaging around the effect of Bitcoin is not yet resonating with the public.
That said, most Britons don’t think well of cryptocurrencies: two in five (40%) have a negative view of them, while just 15% say their opinion is positive. Another two in five don’t express an opinion either way (39%), and 6% simply don’t know.
With headlines about Bitcoin focused heavily on the ups and downs of its price movement, it may be that volatility is playing a larger role in negative sentiment than environmental concerns. Data from YouGov Profiles shows that there may well be a sense that Bitcoin is something of a gold rush: almost half of the public (48%) think cryptocurrencies are “a fad” – with a fifth (20%) dissenting – while more than half say they’re simply not to be trusted (52% agree; 17% disagree).
Earlier this year, the University of Cambridge found that the process of creating new Bitcoins used more electricity per year than the whole of Argentina. Beyond its energy consumption, recent reports have suggested that “mining” cryptocurrencies – which relies on chips that are used in cars, games consoles, TVs, and other devices – may be contributing to a global shortage of semiconductors.
YouGov polled 1500 British adults online on 13 May 2021 between 11:39 and 12:13 BST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade. Results are nationally representative of adults in Great Britain. The margin of error is 4.6% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct.
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