Despite the dangers, world depends on coal
Coal has led the planet to the brink of catastrophic climate change.
Scientists have repeatedly warned of its looming dangers, most recently Friday, when a major scientific report issued by 13 U.S. government agencies concluded that the damage from climate change could knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the U.S. economy by century’s end if significant steps aren’t taken to rein in warming.
Internationally, an October report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on global warming found that avoiding the worst devastation would require a radical transformation of the world economy in just a few years.
Central to that transformation: getting out of coal, and fast.
And yet three years after the Paris Agreement, when world leaders promised action, coal shows no sign of disappearing. While coal use is certain to eventually wane worldwide, it is not on track to happen anywhere fast enough to avert the worst effects of climate change, according to the latest assessment by the International Energy Agency.
Cheap, plentiful and the most polluting of fossil fuels, coal remains the single largest source of energy to generate electricity worldwide. This, even as renewables like solar and wind power are rapidly becoming more affordable. Soon, coal could make no financial sense for its
The battle over the future of coal is being waged in Asia.
Home to half the world’s population, Asia accounts for three-fourths of global coal consumption today. More important, it accounts for more than three-fourths of coal plants that are either under construction or in the planning stages.
The world’s juggernaut, though, is China. The country consumes half the world’s coal. More than 4.3 million Chinese are employed in the country’s coal mines.
CHANGE IN CHINA
Spurred by public outcry over air pollution, China is now also the world leader in solar and wind power installation, and its central government has tried to slow down coal plant construction. But an analysis by Coal Swarm concluded that new plants continue to be built, and other proposed projects have simply been delayed rather than stopped.