The Problem of Coal: in China

Standard Page - 2010-07-15
Coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of human-made carbon dioxide emissions. This makes burning coal the single greatest threat facing our climate. A huge portion of China's carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal. If we are to stop climate change, then China must move away from coal to renewable energy.

Coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of human-made carbon dioxide emissions. This makes burning coal the single greatest threat facing our climate. A huge portion of China's carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal. If we are to stop climate change, then China must move away from coal to renewable energy.

Apart from climate change, coal also causes irreparable damage to the environment, people's health and communities around the world. From mining to combustion, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet, producing air and water pollution and liquid and solid waste.

Environmental and Health Impacts

While the coal industry itself isn't paying for the damage it causes, the world at large is.

  • Coal is the single biggest source of climate-changing pollution.
  • Coal mining destroys ecosystems and releases toxic levels of minerals and gases into water and air (including the potent greenhouse gas methane).
  • Burning coal releases particulate matter into the air, which causes respiratory ailments – especially long-term or chronic health effects.
  • Another by-product of coal burning is mercury, which infiltrates the food chain and attacks the nervous system. Young children and babies, whose nervous systems are still developing, are particularly vulnerable.
  • The impacts of air pollution are far reaching: for example, mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants can travel thousands of kilometers.
  • Coal mine accidents kill thousands of people around the world every year. Mining exposes miners and nearby residents to coal ash and other toxins.
  • Burning coal creates millions of tonnes of waste products that contain toxic levels of heavy metals and minerals. These mostly end up in landfill sites or impoundments, and pose a threat to our health and environment.

Quit coal for real solutions

China has vast potential for renewable energy, which could be realized with sufficient investment and effective government policies. We need an energy revolution that replaces dirty energy sources like coal and other fossil fuels with clean energy solutions: wind and solar energy, as well as energy efficiency and other modern technologies.

Read our following in-depth reports:

The True Cost of Coal
The True Cost of Coal: Air Pollution and Public Health
The True Cost of Coal: An Investigation into Coal Ash in China
The True Cost of Coal: Coal Dust Storms and Toxic Wind

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