Air pollution from factories and coal-fired power stations in China kills over half a million people per year.
Black lung disease from working in coal mines may claim up to six million more people in the coming years. Chinese government data shows that each year the number of registered lung sufferers leaps by around one-third.
Last year, Chinese mines dug up 3.8 billion metric tons of coal, more than enough to keep all four of the next largest users — the U.S., India, the European Union and Russia — supplied for one year.
Now China is paying the price – the cost of coal miner’s lives, shocking and deadly air pollution, expanding deserts and environmental refugees.
Over the past 50 years, the oceans have tripled to 80,000 metric tons of mercury poisoning from burning coal. All sea life contains mercury, a potent nerve toxin.
The climate crisis has forced China to shut down some coal mines, yet they still depend on two-thirds of their energy from coal-fired power plants. Since these plants use steam to derive energy – water – the life-blood of Earth has become scarce in parts of China. And, that is now impinging upon agriculture and the ability of China to feed itself.
Last year, China produced over 9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from burning coal; that’s more coal than all the coal used around the globe in 1990.
Meanwhile the toxic air pollution in the Indian capital city of Delhi has given 2.2 million children irreversible lung damage. Delhi’s air now contains twice the toxic matter compared to the smog of Beijing. Children in Delhi are three times more likely to develop severe lung disease compared to any other city or town in India.
India has 13 of the world’s 20 most air polluted cities. In the face of all this pollution, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to double India’s coal production by 2020. And, he’s cut deals with Australia’s coal-promoting Prime Minister Tony Abbott to supply more deadly coal.
It’s bloody wrong and it has disastrous global consequences for pushing Earth’s temperature well beyond the 2C level by 2036. It’s time the world leaders acted on behalf of the people- not the avaricious, subsidized carbon polluters.
There is hope! In 2014 (for the first time in a decade,) the demand for coal in China dropped because it poured so many investments into green renewables like wind, solar and hydro power stations. Renewables now generate more electricity than all power stations in Indonesia – a country of 255 million people.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to end all fossil fuel subsidies of $5.6 trillion, as revealed by the International Monetary Fund, and massively invest in green energies so that children don’t choke to death from filthy, toxic, heat-trapping air pollution generated by coal.
Earth Dr. Reese Halter’s latest book is “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save our Oceans.”