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The End Of China’s Coal Boom,” is a new, must-read chart-filled report from Greenpeace. It documents the response of China to the almost unimaginable life-shortening air pollution caused by its rapid growth in coal use.
One of its charts highlights the stunning statistic that over half of the growth in global carbon pollution in the past decade has come just from China’s increase in coal!
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But that kind of growth of coal has more than just climate impacts. It is “draining the country’s arid west of precious water resources,” as Greenpeace itself noted.
And then there is the air pollution. Climate Progress has pointed out “when eight-year-olds start getting lung cancer that can be attributed to air pollution, you’ve got a problem. When smog forces schools, roads, and airports to shut down because visibility is less than 50 yards, you’ve got a problem. When a study finds that severe pollution is slashing an average of five-and-a-half years from the life expectancy in northern China, you’ve got a problem.”
The response by the Chinese government has been to require coal burning be cut — in some cases sharply — in China’s heavily populated eastern provinces, as shown in this graphic from the report:
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As Greenpeace’s Li Shuo and Kaisa Kosonen wrote:
Twelve of China’s 34 provinces, that burn 44% of the country’s coal, are committed to control their coal use. Some, like Beijing, have pledged ambitious cuts as steep as 50% in only five years.
This puts China and hence the world much closer to the 2°C path, as the report points out. But if we are to have any chance whatsoever of getting anywhere near that essential target, China will have to commit to have coal consumption peak and then start declining in the 2020s. And we Americans will have to get off our butts, too.
Chinese coal plant teaser image dailuo/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license.