On the heels of the recent COP 18 climate conference in Qatar, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has reported that global coal use is on the rise. Without controls to make one of the most polluting fossil fuels on earth less economically attractive, by 2017 the world will be burning as much coal as oil, the IEA warns. This would make redundant all other efforts to arrest climate change and imperil millions of people around the world.

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Coal consumption has surged in just about every country on earth, except for the United States, which favors shale gas. Coal prices plummeted alongside the drop in U.S. demand, increasing its popularity across the globe – even in Europe, where a carbon trading scheme should mitigate excess consumption. “Coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to grow each year, and if no changes are made to current policies, coal will catch oil within a decade,” Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA told The Guardian.

The IEA’s Medium Term Coal Market Report reveals that at current rates of extraction and use, global coal consumption will reach 4.3bn tons compared to 4.4bn tons of conventional oil. In addition to emitting more greenhouse gases than any other fossil fuel, coal burned in inefficient plants emit sulphur, which causes acid rain, mercury and soot. Van der Hoeven told the paper that the only way to prevent this climatic catastrophe is to establish carbon prices that favor use renewable energy at best, or natural gas at worst.

Via The Guardian

Images of polluted skies, coal dump trucks, Shutterstock