IPCC report

Climate or coal?

Jörg-Rainer Zimmermann, 15 Dec 14
The world must act quickly to reduce its CO2 emissions – or face major catastrophe. But politicians are failing to ensure that fossil fuels are systematically replaced by renewables.

The figures are shocking: in the European Union, 18,400 people die every year as a result of health problems that can be definitively attributed to the operation of coal-fired power plants. On top of this, there are 28.8 million cases of illness: coal-fired power plants blast huge quantities of mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other pollutants into the air. These facts emerge from the study “Europe’s Dirty 30”, which was published in July 2014 by fie European environmental organisations including the WWF and Climate Alliance Germany.

“Europe’s Dirty 30” joins a long list of studies on the consequences of fossil fuel use: as a result of environmentally damaging emissions, the unchecked combustion of these fuels, especially lignite and hard coal, continues to cause widespread and lasting damage to the entire planet. Although the problem has long been known, politicians have failed to act. In fact it seems that the use of coal is still increasing – globally, in Europe and to date also in Germany.

This was confirmed by the final report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in November: global warming could reach 4.8 degrees by 2100, leading to climate disasters of unimaginable scope. The scenarios are horrific and highly likely to occur – if countermeasures are not taken immediately. Shortly after publication of the report, the governments of the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the USA, agreed for the first time ever on coordinated climate protection targets: Beijing intends to stop its CO2 emissions rising after 2030, while President Obama has pledged to reduce emissions in the United States to up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 06/2014

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