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Hastening Climate Change, Worldwide Coal Consumption to Increase Within 5 Years

China, India expected to lead consumption by 2017

- Beth Brogan, staff writer

Only weeks after climate change talks in Doha produced no significant plan to address climate change, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday that coal will likely rival oil as the world's largest source of energy within five years, dramatically increasing global warming.

An Indian worker shovels coal at a depot in Siliguri on October 18, 2010. (Photo: Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images) The report, released Tuesday by the IEA, states that while the growth of coal use is slowing "from the breakneck pace of the last decade," global consumption by 2017 will likely increase by 1.2 billion metric tons—the amount currently consumed annually by the US and Russia alone.

Tom Zeller Jr. of the Huffington Post cites statistics from the US Energy Information Administration that coal is the leading source of planet warming emissions, accounting for more than 40 percent of all emissions, with that figure expected to increase to nearly half of global emissions over the next 25 years.

Daniel Kessler, a spokesman for the climate action group 350.org, said:

Coal use can't be like a bump in a rug, moving from one spot to another. The reality is that we need to keep 80 percent of all fossil fuels underground if we are going to avoid the worst impacts from climate change. And that can only happen if we work across borders in a unified front against the fossil fuel industry, whose business model is dependent on cooking the planet.

The use of coal has increased even in European countries that have pledged to reduce emissions, The Guardian reports, because an emissions trading program has failed. The program

"was supposed to discourage high-carbon power generation by imposing a price on carbon dioxide emissions. This was done through issuing generators and energy-intensive companies with a set quota of emissions permits, requiring them to buy extra permits if they needed to emit more than their allowance. But an over-allocation, coupled with the effects of the financial crisis and recession, have led to a large surplus of permits on the market, that has in turn led to a plunge in permit prices. At current levels, of a few euros per tonne of carbon, there is little incentive to seek out lower carbon fuels, and coal is enjoying a renaissance in Europe."

The report is likely to anger advocates for action on climate change, Zeller reports. He adds that the lack of action on climate change policy "is making it exceedingly likely that global average temperatures will rise beyond levels that countries had previously agreed it would be best to avoid."

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