Reading a recent article in Newsfusion Energy News, it was really quite depressing to learn that the IEA expects coal demand to be stable for the next 4 years. Coal demand is falling in the US and EU, but is surging in SouthEast Asia, especially in India and China, already 2 of the top 3 emitters of the heat-trapping gas CO2. Both have large populations and fast-growing economies. Many of their coal plants are young, with long high-emission lifetimes ahead of them. The world can’t afford their future emissions; they’ll propel the world past the limit required to keep temperatures under the targets set in the Paris Agreement that are needed to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate heating.
Were politicians to act more responsibly, no more coal plants would be built and existing ones would be strictly regulated to minimize their emissions. In the absence of political will, however, extraordinary, supranational measures may be required. One approach would be a global tax on carbon emissions, which would fall on all fossil fuels, but most heavily on coal, the “dirtiest” fossil fuel. Another idea that has been floated is a border tax, imposed by countries that have invested in clean power sources on those countries which have not done so but want to export their cheaper “dirty” goods to countries that have. Both approaches are controversial, and both face high bars to becoming operational. However, the alternative is a hostile even deadly environment for the people of nearly all the world’s countries. It is so bad that it makes the politically difficult possible, no matter how unattractive. So while a coal-fouled future as predicted by the IEA is depressing, there is at least a glimmer of hope that apocalypse can be avoided.