There has recently been a lot of discussion and debate around the possible similarities and differences of gold and Bitcoin (and, by implication, other cryptocurrencies), and this has often included consideration of their relative environmental impacts and, specifically, their carbon footprints.
At one level, a comparison of the relative carbon footprints of gold and cryptocurrencies is justified because the emissions of both are primarily related to the electricity used in their production. But I find shifting from this point to wider comparisons - for example, regarding the carbon intensity of their relative values or their social and environmental impacts - to be more problematic.
My colleagues have said it before; gold and cryptocurrencies are simply very different as assets. But their clear and rational description of those differences (see, for example, How gold’s role in a portfolio differs from cryptocurrencies) didn’t touch upon the social and environmental impacts of gold and cryptos, and I therefore thought a little further examination and comment on those aspects of potential comparison might be warranted.