By Asmita Pandey
Coal is a combustible black or brown sedimentary rock composed mostly of carbon and hydrocarbons. It is a fossil fuel and is altered remains of prehistoric vegetation that originally accumulated in swamps and pet logs. It is a non renewable form of energy absorbed by plants from sun millions of years ago.
All living plants store energy through a process called photosynthesis. When plants die, this energy is released as they decay. Under certain conditions favorable to coal formation, the decaying process is interrupted preventing the release of stored solar energy. Coal formation began during carboniferous period which spanned 360 million to 290 million years ago.
According to the report of the International Energy Agency 2013, coal provided 41% of the world’s electricity needs. It is the most abundant fossil fuel produced in United States whereas China is the largest coal producer in the Asia. 46% of the total coal was produced by China which is equivalent to 3549 Mt. 25% of the total U.S. coal exports goes to Asia but remain a small share of Asia’s total coal imports. The other key exporting countries to Asia are Australia, South Africa and Columbia. According to The Quartz Media, China’s coal use more than doubled between 2002 and 2012, and it is by far the largest coal consumer in the world. The coal consumption in China was approximated 3526 million metric tons. India’s consumption was 775 Mt whereas Japan’s 190 Mt was followed by South Korea and Kazakhstan. U.S. coal exports have made steady inroads to the Asian Market since 2007. Almost all the U.S. coal exported to Asia went to world’s top four coal importers; China, Japan, India and South Korea. Coal exports of U.S. to Asian Countries from 2% in 2007 to 25% in 2012, while these large exports of U.S. provided less than 4% of Asia’s coal imports in 2012 and less than 1% of the total coal consumed by four large Asian importers. These data are based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Coal, the most polluting way to generate electricity is a serious threat to our climate. It is mainly made up of carbon, making it a carbon- intensive energy source. Burning coal produces nearly double the green house gas emission as burning gas, for the same amount of energy. So, although coal generated less than 30% of the world’s energy supply in 2013, it produced 46% of the global carbon dioxide emissions. A typical 500 MW coal power plant releases global warming emissions roughly equal to 600,000 cars. Yet unlike cars, coal plants are designed to operate for 40 years or more a long lifespan of polluting energy. Coal mining often produces the potent green house gas methane. Methane is 84 times as powerful as carbon dioxide at disrupting the climate over a given 20 year period. According to the research report of Green Peace International, if plans for new coal fired power plants around the world go ahead, carbon dioxide emissions from coal would balloon to 60% of the global total by 2030. Worldwide proven coal reserves would allow us to burn it for 110 more years. Yet if even a small fraction of this dirty, polluting fuel is mined and burned we have no chance to stay within 1.5 0C rise of temperature rise. Beyond this level of warming many impacts of climate change become severe in some regions.
Coal has got several impacts on climate. To mitigate all these we need to break free from dirty, polluting coal. Communities should be highlighted about coal’s health impacts. The farmers driven from their land to make way construction of power plants must be supported. Several campaigns must be organized to stop the flow of investment to coal and other fossil fuel projects. As an individual we should also explore ways to power up our life with renewable energy. The good news is we have already begun to change. Coal is in a steep and irreversible decline and clean, safe, renewable energy has unstoppable momentum. We must move still faster to prevent climate crisis.