The U.N. climate conference is currently underway in Warsaw, Poland, and in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, tensions are running high as countries begin to experience the negative consequences of human-accelerated climate change. Curiously, the World Coal Organization decided to have a meeting at Poland’s Economy Ministry this week as well. The simultaneous gathering provided the perfect opportunity for the U.N.’s chief climate diplomat to tell Big Coal exactly what it can do to help: leave most of the world’s remaining coal reserves in the ground.
Not surprisingly, many of those gathered in Poland for the climate conference took the coal industry’s presence as a provocation. Activists used a crane to gain access to the Ministry’s roof, where they released banners chiding Poland — and the rest of the world — for its reliance on coal and other fossil fuels. The activists’ frustration is warranted: for one thing, coal is finite. We are using it up far faster than the Earth can make it, so one day soon it will run out. If you’re facing a dead end, the smart thing to do is turn around and find another path. Not step on the accelerator, right?
Perhaps even more disturbing than the fact that we’re quickly running out of coal is what its extraction and use is doing to us and the planet. “Coal plants are the nation’s top source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the primary cause of global warming,” states the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Particulate matter (also referred to as soot or fly ash) can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility. A typical uncontrolled plan emits 500 tons of small airborne particles each year.”
“The world is rising to meet the climate challenge as risks of inaction mount, and it is in your best interest to make coal part of the solution,” UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres told dozens of coal company CEOs gathered at the meeting.
She said aging, high-polluting coal plants must be closed and new plants should implement technologies that allow for emissions to be trapped before they are released into the atmosphere. But to bring down CO2 emissions to levels that would avoid dangerous levels of warming, most of the existing coal reserves must be left in the ground, she said.
“Some major oil, gas and energy technology companies are already investing in renewables, and I urge those of you who have not yet started to join them,” Figueres said.
Surprisingly, it’s not developed countries like the U.S. or Britain topping the coal charts anymore. Coal consumption of wealthy nations has since been outpaced by developing economies like China and India, who are building new coal-fired power plants at an alarming rate.
Via Huffington Post