De­spite the dan­gers, world de­pends on coal

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Nation - BY SOMINI SENGUPTA

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.


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.

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