Phasing Out Coal

In one country – the US – reducing GHG emissions requires replacing coal-fired generating plants.  In another – India – emissions will increase as many more such plants are built.

At the September UN Summit in New York, the Indian Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar said his government is not planning to cut its greenhouse gas emissions any time before next year’s critical climate summit in Paris.

He explained that the top priority of the Indian Government is to alleviate poverty.

“Twenty percent of our population doesn’t have access to electricity, and that’s our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise.”

While India is increasing GHG (and other noxious emissions) from new coal-powered electricity generating stations, the US is phasing out use of coal.

To Javadekar, that’s the way it should be.  In his view, responsibility for the climate crisis should be placed on the United States, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas polluter. “What cuts?” Javadekar said. “That’s for more developed countries. The moral principle of historic responsibility cannot be washed away.”

It is ironic that India is determined to go down the same road taken by China.  China built hundreds of coal-fired plants to provide energy for expanding industries. China now recognizes that the huge increase in the use of coal has “poisoned” the air in its overcrowded cities, and is damaging the health of its people.  That is the principal reason why China is prepared to cap its GHG emissions.

Increased use of coal will reduce poverty in India.  In the US decreasing use of coal for generation of electricity could lead to job loss for workers in coal mining states.

Kentucky, rich in coal but one of the poorest states, will make sacrifices for the US to reach its climate change goals.  Kentucky coal miners and their families will not be comforted that they are suffering so the US can discharge an historic responsibility.

One can understand why Senator McConnell of Kentucky, now the Republican Majority Senate leader, vigorously opposes this policy.

In India burning coal will create wealth today, but a public health crisis tomorrow.  In the United States phasing out use of coal may lead to hardship today for some but a better future for all tomorrow.

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