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Despite Global Warming, Coal's Not Going Anywhere Just Yet

What's the Latest Development?

A recently released report from the World Resources Institute, "Global Coal Risk Assessment," says that at least 1,199 new coal-fired power plants are being planned worldwide, with the bulk of them to be built in China and India. Plants are also being proposed for developing nations such as Guatemala and Uzbekistan, which need cheaper energy sources to help support their economic growth. Co-author Ailun Yang says the report focuses on proposed plants rather than on the likelihood of those plants being built, a factor that depends heavily on policies adopted by individual countries.

What's the Big Idea?

With concern about global warming increasing steadily, any moves away from mitigation have potential impact for the rest of the world. Almost half of carbon emissions worldwide are due to coal burning. Writer Brad Plumer says, "If even just a quarter of these 1,199 proposed plants were built, that would be the same thing as doubling the coal capacity of the United States." At the same time, in a country like India where millions still don't have electricity, it's hard to resist the cheap energy that coal provides. Yang says India's open to a different path "[b]ut they’d have to put in place policies that are strong enough to discourage coal use."

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