China, the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, has made great strides in recent days to address global energy shortages this fall and combat inflation, but the measures come at considerable cost to efforts to halt climate change.
The country has started to expand coal production for more than Western Europe extracts in a year, in a campaign that will help the country end the recent electricity shortage. And Beijing said separately on Sunday that it was releasing diesel from its strategic reserves to ensure gas stations don’t run out of fuel.
Diesel demand and diesel prices have skyrocketed in China in recent weeks. Many factories have started operating diesel generators this fall because they cannot get enough electricity from the grid to meet their growing power needs.
China’s additional coal production has helped drive down world coal prices in the past two weeks. Oil prices fell slightly in early trading in Asia on Monday after China’s announcement of diesel supply, but then rebounded. Rising fossil fuel prices have contributed to a spike in inflation around the world this year.
But burning coal, which is already the leading cause of man-made climate change in the world, will increase China’s climate change gas emissions and toxic air pollution.
And as world leaders meet in Glasgow to discuss ways to stop climate change, China’s additional coal alone would increase the production of planet-warming carbon dioxide by a full percentage point, said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, lead researcher. from the Center for International Climate. and Environmental Research in Oslo.
“The timing is horrible,” Korsbakken said. “Hopefully it is just a temporary measure to mitigate the current energy crisis.”
Beijing’s leaders are determined to provide enough coal this winter to power China’s factories and heat their homes. Widespread electricity shortages, caused in part by a coal shortage, nearly brought many industrial cities to a standstill three weeks ago.
But the potential costs go beyond the emissions that cause global warming. Although China has made big steps Towards cleaner air over the past decade, the additional use of coal and diesel could threaten some of that progress. Recently, in 2015, it was discovered that air pollution contributed to 1.6 million premature deaths per year.