What Price, Coal?

It is absurd that it is the developing countries that have pledged to cut their carbon emissions. The big CO2 belchers such as US and China (gunning for the top spot in causing greenhouse gases) are preoccupied with fingerpointing, as well as figuring out in a veritable stand-off. Though they are not compelled to reduce their carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, developing countries are starting to signal an emerging willingness to take action. It’s shameful that the tiny nation of Tuvalu that will soon be submerged in water will make a concrete move to cut carbon emissions ahead of giant polluter China.

The crucial and pivotal action to avert the catastrophes attendant to climate change rests in quitting the use of coal. China cannot afford to do this because it is still largely a coal-powered economy. Many other countries rely on coal because it is the cheapest fuel available to man. But the price of coal is no way cheap. According to Greenpeace International in their publication ‘The True Cost of Coal,’ the world pays for it with ‘respiratory diseases, mining accidents, acid rain, smog pollution, reduced agricultural yields and climate change.’ It may be the cheapest but it is also the world’s dirtiest fuel. However, 40 percent of the world’s electricity is produced with the use of coal.

Coal is the chief source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Worldwide, 11 billion tons of CO2 are produced by coal-fired power generation plants annually – comprising 41 percent of all fossil fuel CO2 emissions. The use of coal involves an entire process or web of activities, from mining to combustion. All these stages in the process have an adverse impact on human health, mining communities, and ecosystem since coal pollutes water supplies and, thus, kills fish stocks and harms agriculture. It also emits other harmful greenhouse gases such as nitrogen oxide, methane, and black carbon, as well as toxic chemicals like mercury and arsenic.

Via TIME/Greenpeace International

coal mine