China Burns Much More Coal Than Reported, Complicating Climate Talks
Despite China’s pledge to cap and then reduce carbon emissions, coal production continues to grow, creating tough choices for those who work in and live near the mines. China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming.
China is supposed to be making major cutbacks on fossil fuels in an effort to reduce carbon emissions, but a new government report indicates that previous figures haven’t exactly been accurate. That is to say, China has been burning a lot more coal than it previously admitted, leaving environmentalists skeptical about how serious the Chinese government is about controlling its contributions to climate change. As the weeks pass leading up to the United Nations climate change conference in Paris next month, other world leaders are likely to be critical of China’s reporting gaff.
The new figures reveal that China has been burning more coal than previously thought, and it’s not just a tiny bit more. According to the New York Times, China has burned 17 percent more coal per year than previously reported, which equates to somewhere in the ballpark of 1 billion extra tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. That’s a pretty big ‘oops’ for a nation that has promised to clamp down on carbon emissions for the health of its people as well as the global environment. The revised coal consumption is based on 2013 data, and the new reports show that the amount of coal burned in China has been underestimated every year since 2000.
In recent months, climate scientists have applauded China’s efforts with Beijing pledging to shut down all of its coal plants by the end of next year with a national goal to ban all coal by 2020. It’s quite difficult to grasp how such ambitious goals will be achieved in a country that can’t even figure out how much coal is being burned currently.
Estimates previously indicated that nearly half of the world’s coal consumption takes place in China, but with the revised figures, that share could be significantly higher. With carbon emissions of epic proportions and increasing health risks for citizens, China will need to take swift and decisive action to get its environmental practices in line with the government’s policy goals.