Coal is the Biggest Contributor to Global Warming generating billions of tons of carbon dioxide during combustion.Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels available on earth and it is expected that Coal will last another 200 years.The mass usage of Coal and its deleterious effect on the environment makes Coal a controversial choice of Energy.Coal is responsible for 25% of Human Energy Consumption and is the largest producer of Electricity in the world.Countries like India and China are developing Coal Power at an astounding rate which means that Coal usage will increase its share.This has major implications in the fight against Climate Change as increasing Carbon Emissions will lead to further Global Warming.Coal due to is advantages of cheapness and abundance is showing no signs of slowing down despite the major drawbacks.While Thermal Power Plants in the Developed World has slowed down,Coal Mining has seen a sharp growth driven by the massive growing demand from Coal and Steel Plants in India and China.However Coal has huge drawbacks which should make policymakers reconsider using Coal in their Energy Strategies.The social costs of coal which are not reflected in the electricity bills have to be paid by the society.These costs have to be accounted for by the government while thinking of Coal.Here are the Major Disadvantages of Coal Energy.
1) Greenhouse Gas Emissions - One of the biggest cons of Coal Energy is that it releases Carbon Dioxide which has been sequestered for millions of years in the dead bodies of plant and animals.This transfer the Carbon from the Earth to the Environment leading to the Global Warming Effect.Global Treaties have failed in putting a Cost on this,though individual countries are tying to account for this through Carbon Taxes and Cap and Trade.
2) Coal Mining Deaths - Coal Mining has resulted in thousands of deaths each year ever since man discovered coal.Note Coal Deaths happen not only in countries which don’t have good safety regulations like China but also in developed countries like USA and New Zealand.
3) Devastation of Earth and Scenery Near Coal Mines – Open Cast Mining of Coal has resulted in destruction of the habitat and destruction of the scenery.It leads to removal of trees and pollution of air and water in areas surrounding the mines.Coal Mine Fires have burned for hundreds of year underground and make living in those areas hazardous.Those burning underground can be difficult to locate and many cannot be extinguished. Fires can cause the ground above to subside, their combustion gases are dangerous to life, and breaking out to the surface can initiate surface fires as well.
4) Displacement of Humans due to Mining Destruction - In West Bengal,India people are being displaced in huge numbers as the hollowing of the earth due to underground coal mining has made those places unsafe as the Land Caves in without warning.
5) Emission of Harmful Substances like Sulfur Dioxide,Carbon Monoxide,Mercury,Selenium, Arsenic ,Acid Rain - Thermal Plants emit harmful substances such as Mercury and Sulfur Dioxide which cause health hazards among the surrounding population and Acid Rain.While modern equipment has reduced the emission of these harmful substances,it is still very harmful to humans.
6) Generation of Millions of tons of Waste - Coal Mining and Combustion generation millions of tons in waste products many of which can’t be reused.Many of these waste products contain harmful substances.
The Cheapness and Ease of Coal has managed to effectively suppress the many harmful effects of Coal Mining and Combustion.Coal causes Human Deaths in the Thousands each year directly through Mining Deaths and Indirectly through Human Diseases like Lung Cancer,Mercury and Arsenic Poisoning.The costs of Coal are artificially low because these costs are passed onto society and not explicitly added onto the cost of coal powered electricity or coal products like Steel and Cement.Reducing Coal Usage gradually is a big necessity but given the growing hunger for energy by India and China and lack of a Climate Agreement that looks unlikely in the near future