I am almost sure that the most users in possession of Bitcoins or other cryptographic currencies have never thought about the impact made during mining or any corresponding process. The asset exists virtually, cannot be touched or accessed by any other human sense, but as any other artificial object leaves a trace of its presence in form of a carbon footprint.
The direct or estimated determination of the carbon footprint became a very popular assessment method in nature conservation and environmental studies. Simple processes such as burning fuels or producing waste can be measured and expressed with corresponding units. International obligations and standards make such calculations and further analysis crucial for the economies and budgets of nations.
A similar approach can be adopted with cryptocoins and built on the block chain – the main register of the processes in the online system. However, the discrete nature and privacy of users poses additional complications for potential researchers.