Visualizing Coal’s Dominant Role in Global Emissions

Aaron Foyer
Coal's dominance in global emissions

Coal is the most carbon-intensive of the major energy sources. It represents about 30% of global energy supply but more than 40% of global emissions Given coal is the most carbon-intensive source of energy, it outweighs other energy sources in its contribution towards global emissions and climate change.

There are several reasons why coal is difficult to move away from as an energy source:

  • Infrastructure: Coal has been a major energy source for many countries for over a century, and as a result, there is a well-established infrastructure in place to mine, transport, and burn coal. This infrastructure represents a significant investment, and it is not easy or cheap to switch to alternative energy sources.
  • Economic considerations: Coal is often cheaper than renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, especially in the short term. The cost of generating electricity from coal is often lower than that of renewable energy sources due to the high capital cost of building renewable energy facilities.
  • Energy density: Coal has a high energy density, which means that it can generate a lot of energy from a small amount of fuel. This makes it an attractive option for power generation, especially in areas where space is limited.
  • Reliability: Coal-fired power plants can be operated continuously, providing a reliable source of energy to meet demand. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are dependent on weather conditions and may not be as reliable.
  • Political considerations: The coal industry has traditionally been a major employer in many countries, and politicians may be reluctant to support a transition away from coal due to concerns about job losses and economic impacts in their constituencies.

Overall, transitioning away from coal will require significant investments in alternative energy sources, changes to infrastructure and energy markets, and political will to support these changes.