Coal’s Not Just For Christmas

Coal’s Not Just For Christmas

about 1 year ago2 mins

A report out on Friday showed that this year’s coal use is set to hit a record high.

What does this mean?

Countries around the globe vowed to ditch coal and embrace cleaner energy at 2021’s high-profile UN climate talks, but little did they know that the world had other plans in store. Before long, Russia invaded Ukraine and disrupted energy supplies the world over, forcing countries to turn back to the black stuff just to keep lights on – especially during the winter. That’s meant that instead of shunning coal, we’ll have used a record-breaking 8 billion plus tons of the stuff by the year’s end, trouncing the record set back in 2013.

Global coal consumption

Why should I care?

For markets: No smoke without fire.

The International Energy Agency thinks coal will stay hot for a few years. Sure, some regions like Europe will transition to cleaner energy – but that’ll be offset by demand for the lucrative black lumps in emerging economies like India and Southeast Asia. That’s troubling news for global emissions: after all, coal produces almost twice as much CO2 as natural gas, whose environmental record is already, ahem, less than optimal. And get this: with demand for coal boosting prices and producers’ profits, nearly half of coal companies are expanding right now, which could be a major setback for climate goals.

Coal use rising
Source: Bloomberg

The bigger picture: Every cloud has a carbon lining.

Coal isn't the only thing standing in the way of our net-zero goals: it turns out that the world’s ever-expanding digital footprint is also part of the problem. Whopper computing outfits like cloud data centers need tons of water and electricity to keep running, which racks up emissions aplenty. In total, digital operations actually create around 4% of global greenhouse gasses – almost double the amount produced by commercial flights. With any luck then, 2023’s hot environmental trend will involve deleting your online presence and disappearing from the internet.

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