Is the global coal boom over?

Coal Mine China
CC BY 2.0 Wikipedia

It wasn't that long ago that we all assumed coal use would keep growing for decades to come. But those assumptions were wrong.

Not only has Chinese coal production and consumption just fallen unexpectedly, but a new report from the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm suggests that, since 2010, there have been two coal plants decommissioned or canceled for every one coal plant that has been built. Here's how Business Green is reporting this welcome news:

The trend stands in stark contrast to the growth seen between 2005 and 2012, when global coal capacity grew at three times previous rates and the increase in the planet's coal power plant fleet was twice the capacity of all the coal power plants in the US.

"What's striking is how quickly the business climate has turned against coal since 2012," said Ted Nace, executive director of CoalSwarm. "Because these projects require large capital outlays, they're vulnerable to rising perceptions of risk."

As Nace suggests, figures like these just add to the sense that investors everywhere are rethinking their exposure to carbon intensive industries.

But now is not the time to be letting up the pressure. As Mike argued in his post about the recent (apparent) stall in global emissions despite economic growth, we cannot be content with simply slowing the destruction.

The growing number of signs that global coal consumption (and possibly CO2 emissions) are leveling off earlier than expected is but a first step in a long-haul marathon. We now have to navigate our way down from the precipice we find ourselves on.

Fortunately, the things we have to do to get down from this precipice are also the things we have to do to clean our air, improve our lives, and maybe even reboot our economies too. From regreening our planet to slashing our energy use to a rapid deployment of truly clean energy everywhere, we now have the proven tools at our disposal.

We've just embarked on a fascinating collective journey as a species. I for one can't wait.

Tags: Activism | Carbon Emissions | Coal | Renewable Energy

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