Surface coal mining in Bihar, India. Around 70-80 percent of India’s power is currently provided by coal.
Even as the clamor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions reaches a new high—echoed recently by such staid institutions as the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA)—a new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) finds that 818 new coal-fired plants are under proposal in China and India. In all 1,199 new coal-fired plants are currently planned worldwide, according to the report, totaling 1.4 million megawatts of energy.
According to the report 59 nations are currently proposing to build new coal plants. This includes 49 new coal plants proposed in Turkey, 48 in Russia, 36 in the U.S., 30 in Vietnam, and 17 in Indonesia. But India has by far proposed the most new coal-fired power plants: 455. While China, already the world’s biggest burner of coal, has proposed 363 new plants.
“Not all of these projects will necessarily be approved and developed—the report only looks at proposed new plants. However, this research shows a significant—and troubling—interest in coal development globally,” writes Ailun Yang with the WRI in a blog.
Coal is the world’s most carbon-intensive energy source. It has been estimated that currently around a third of all greenhouse gas emissions stem from the combustion of coal alone. In addition to its carbon emissions, coal also spreads around 20 toxic chemicals into the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the use of coal shortens a million lives around the world every year. Despite such figures, coal is on the rise, especially in Asia.
“After a slight decline in 2008, the global coal trade has rebounded and continues to grow,” the analysis reads. “In 2010 the global coal trade rose by 13.4 percent, reaching 1,083.1 million tonnes. This growth was fueled by the worldwide economic recovery and China’s expanding coal intake.”
(11/26/2012) As the 18th meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicks off this morning in oil rich Qatar, the world body warns that much more ambitious greenhouse gas cuts are needed to keep catastrophic climate change at bay. A new report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the European Climate Foundation finds that even if all current emissions pledges are kept, the world will still spew 8 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent above what is needed by 2020, putting the globe on a fast-track to dangerous climate change.
(11/18/2012) The world’s largest coal producer, the state-run Coal India Ltd., plans to massively expand mining in forest areas to help meeting surging demand for electricity, reports The Wall Street Journal.
(10/31/2012) Last year, a coalition of environmentalists and locals won a David-versus-Goliath battle against a massive coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo. After facing a protracted campaign—including expert analysis of green energy options for Sabah—the state government announced it was scuttling plans to build the coal plant on a beach overlooking the Coral Triangle. Now, victorious grassroots campaigners are hosting the inaugural meeting of the Southeast Asia Renewable Energy People’s Assembly (SEAREPA), bringing 80 organizations together to discuss green energy options across southeast Asia.
(08/01/2012) A shift away from coal and reduced gasoline demand coupled with a mild winter led to an 8 percent drop in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions during the first quarter of 2012, reports the Energy Information Administration. Emissions between January and March 2012 were the lowest since 1992.
(08/01/2012) Burning coal fuels climate change, causes acid rain, and spreads toxic pollutants into the environment, but now a new Greenpeace report warns that coal may also imperil the world’s biggest feline: the tiger. Home to world’s largest population of tigers—in this case the Bengal subspecies (Panthera tigris tigris)—India is also the world’s third largest coal producer. The country’s rapacious pursuit of coal—it has nearly doubled production since 2007—has pushed the industry into tiger territory, threatening to destroy forests and fragment the tiger’s already threatened population.
(07/30/2012) After starting his own project to study global warming, a once-prominent climate change skeptic and physicist says he now accepts the reality of anthropogenic climate change. “Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause,” Richard Muller writes in the New York Times as his team, the Berkeley Earth Project, releases a new paper that finds an even stronger link between greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures worldwide than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
(07/19/2012) The average person in China emitted 7.2 tons of carbon last year, according to new figures from BL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). This means that the average Chinese citizen is now very close to the average European, who emits 7.5 tons, in terms of annual emissions. Having been named the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2009—usurping the U.S. from its long-held position—China continues to lead the pack with emissions that rose 9 percent in 2011.
(06/07/2012) Governments, NGOs, and others fighting climate change should consider buying coal and oil deposits—not to exploit them, but to keep them from being exploited, according to a bold new policy paper in the Journal of Political Economy. Economist Bard Harstad with the Kellogg School of Management argues that climate coalitions could quickly slash carbon emissions by purchasing and conserving marginal fossil fuel deposits, a strategy that would solve the current problem of carbon leakage, i.e. when cutting emissions in one place pushes others to burn more elsewhere. Given that carbon emissions rose to a new record last year—31.6 gigatons—and carbon has hit 400 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere for the first time in at least 800,000 years, Harstad’s analysis comes at a time when scientists are warning that urgent and bold action is needed to mitigate global climate change before it becomes irreversible.
(05/29/2012) Last year global carbon dioxide emissions rose 3.2 percent to a new record of 31.6 gigatons, keeping the planet on track to suffer dangerous climate change, which could propel global crop failures, sea level rise, worsening extreme weather, and mass extinction. According to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), China’s carbon emissions rose the most last year (9.3 percent) while emissions in Europe and the U.S. dipped slightly. China is the currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, while the U.S. has emitted the most historically.
(05/07/2012) Thirteen Canadians were peacefully arrested this weekend for blockading Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway train tracks in order to prevent the passage of coal stemming from the United States and destined to be burned in Asia. Among those arrested was Mark Jaccard, an economics professor with Simon Fraser University, who won the Nobel Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
(04/03/2012) An Australian court last week ruled that climate change was not reason enough to halt the $6.3 billion Wandoan coal mine in Australia in a landmark case. Swiss coal mining company Xstrata succeeded in defeating a challenge from the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth and local farmers, which argued that the mine should be halted due to its resulting carbon emissions.