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Coal use is not declining fast enough to slow global warming

According to a new study conducted by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and Lund University, the use of coal power is not declining rapidly enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius. 

Instead, the world appears to be headed towards a temperature increase of 2.5-3 degrees Celsius. However, the researchers suggest that it is still feasible to prevent even higher warming.

“More and more countries are promising that they will phase out coal from their energy systems, which is positive. But unfortunately, their commitments are not strong enough. If we are to have a realistic chance of meeting the 2-degree target, the phasing out of coal needs to happen faster,” explained Professor Aleh Cherp.

Phasing out coal is necessary to prevent the world’s temperature increase from exceeding two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. For the study, experts from the research program Mistra Electrification analyzed the pledged commitments of 72 countries to phase out their coal use by 2022-2050.

In the best-case scenario, the researchers found that it is possible to keep the temperature increase at two degrees Celsius. However, this assumes that China and India will begin phasing out their coal use within the next five years and that their phase-out will be as rapid as that of the UK, which is the fastest ever seen in a large country, and faster than Germany has promised. This may create inequities that will need to be addressed by international policies.

The researchers also developed scenarios that they consider to be the most realistic. These scenarios indicate that the Earth is headed towards a global warming of 2.5-3 degrees Celsius.

“The countries’ commitments are not sufficient, not even among the most ambitious countries. In addition, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may prevent some countries from phasing out coal as they promised,” said Professor Jessica Jewell.

The study highlights that the 72 countries’ commitments to phase out coal power are similar to each other and in line with historical data for how quickly coal power was phased out in the past. However, given the urgency of the climate crisis, more ambitious and rapid action is needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s target and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

Coal has been a significant source of energy for many years, and it has played a critical role in driving the industrialization of nations. However, the burning of coal to produce energy has significant environmental impacts that affect climate change. Coal is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and its impact on climate change is a global concern. In this article, we will discuss how using coal for power impacts climate change and what measures can be taken to mitigate its effects.

Coal-fired power plants are responsible for producing a large amount of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, coal-fired power plants are responsible for about 30 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, which leads to global warming and climate change.

Apart from carbon dioxide, coal combustion also releases other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury. These pollutants have serious health implications and can cause respiratory diseases, heart disease, and premature death. Additionally, they contribute to acid rain, which can harm forests, lakes, and streams.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt globally, including rising sea levels, increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts, and disruptions to ecosystems and wildlife. The use of coal for power production has a significant impact on climate change, and its continued use will result in even more severe impacts in the future.

To mitigate the impacts of coal on climate change, countries and industries need to shift to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro are viable alternatives that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a more sustainable source of energy. Many countries have set targets to reduce their reliance on coal and increase the share of renewable energy in their energy mix.

In addition to switching to renewable energy sources, technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) can also help mitigate the impacts of coal on climate change. CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and storing them underground or using them for industrial processes. Although CCS technology is still in its early stages, it has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In summary, the use of coal for power production has a significant impact on climate change. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, and their continued use will lead to even more severe impacts in the future. To mitigate the impacts of coal on climate change, countries and industries need to shift to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy, such as renewables, and invest in technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

About Mistra Electrification

The Mistra Electrification research program aims to accelerate the transition to a sustainable and efficient energy system. The program will produce knowledge, with a focus on electrification and sector coupling, to enable a fair transition. The main financier is the research foundation Mistra. The program is hosted by the research company Energiforsk, which leads the program together with Chalmers University of Technology. Read more at


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