Coal use declines, but not enough

Coal use is slowing down, but not fast enough.

For centuries, coal has been used as a dependable energy source. Its use increased dramatically during and after the Industrial Revolution. Because of this, it is necessary to recognize coal as a vital component of technological advancement throughout the world.

However, it is no stranger to health and climate concerns. Emissions from the burning of coal contribute significantly to respiratory distress. A specific emission, mercury, can also lead to neurological and developmental issues. These emissions also contribute to climate activity that is harmful to the planet.

Burning coal increases carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which in turn increases temperature. This is already having disastrous outcomes with regard to melting ice caps, which result in rising ocean levels. This also decreases salinity which directly harms aquatic life that depends on salt water.

Despite promises to decrease use of coal for the sake of the environment, in 2022, the worldwide use of coal for energy increased by 1%. While this number may seem small, it shows a lack of urgency regarding the climate crisis that is exacerbated by the burning of coal. Fossil fuels only harm the environment, there are no benefits in this regard. Most of the new projects that increased coal emissions in 2022 were in China.

However, in 2021, 194 total parties signed the Paris Agreement, which vows to limit fossil fuel emissions in an effort to hamper the warming of the climate. The increase of coal usage is in direct opposition to this agreement and shows a lack of commitment and urgency to combat climate change.

A recent study from Lund University and Chalmers University of Technology shows that instead of cooling, the temperature trend of the world is increasing. While those committed to the Paris Agreement claim to be determined to close coal plants and are doing so, the rate simply is not dependable enough to actually lessen global warming.

The precedent set in the 2015 iteration of the Paris Agreement states that all coal plants would need to be shut down by 2040. This is simply unrealistic given that new coal plants are still being built throughout the world.

A total of 14 countries added new coal plants in 2022, while the United States, among other countries, closed coal plants.

Many countries are in the process of ceasing operations of coal plants, but this new research shows that this is not enough to slow down global warming. It is clear that urgency surrounding coal use needs to be heightened for the sake of the planet and those who inhabit it.