Why You Should Root For Clean Coal

By Keith Kloor | January 30, 2013 9:04 am

Senator John Kerry’s confirmation as Secretary of State has generated positive vibes in the environmental community and given climate campaigners a little hope. (Incidentally, does anybody else find it odd that Kerry, despite “his long record as one of the Senate’s strongest advocates for climate action,” as the Guardian noted, is just now divesting from oil stocks? What took him so long?)

Anyway, Kerry will certainly be an important player in the Obama Administration’s renewed effort to tackle climate change. But greens need to keep their expectations in check, because global warming, to restate the obvious, is a global problem. Over at Time magazine, Bryan Walsh highlights a part of the climate equation that the United States has little power to influence:

China is now burning almost as much coal as the rest of the world — combined. And despite impressive support from Beijing for renewable energy and a dawning understanding about the dangers of air pollution, coal use in China is poised to continue rising, if slower than it has in recent years. That’s deadly for the Chinese people — see the truly horrific air pollution in Beijing this past month — and it’s dangerous for the rest of the world. Coal already accounts for 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, making it one of the biggest causes of man-made climate change.

As Walsh points out:

there’s a reason why coal is so popular in China and in much of the rest of the world: it’s very, very cheap. And that’s why, despite the danger coal poses to health and the environment, neither China nor many other rapidly growing developing nations are likely to turn away from it.

And that’s why, as I said in Slate last year, the “clean coal” dream must be kept alive. Because the nightmare of China’s coal dependency is not ending anytime soon.

[Source/U.S. DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory]

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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