Coal Use Rises Dramatically Despite Impacts on Climate and Health

James Russell | Nov 28, 2007

In 2006, coal accounted for 25 percent of world primary energy supply.1 (See Figure 1.) Due to its high carbon content, coal was responsible for approximately 40 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels, despite supplying only 32 percent of fossil fuel energy.2 Management of this plentiful but heavily polluting energy resource has tremendous implica­tions for human welfare, the health of ecosystems, and the stability of the global climate.

World coal consumption reached a record 3,090 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2006, an increase of 4.5 percent over 2005.3 (See Figure 2.) China led world coal use with 39 percent of the total. The United States followed with 18 percent. The European Union and India accounted for 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively.4 (See Figure 3.)

In terms of growth, China is even more dominant. The increase in China’s coal consumption accounted for more than 70 percent of global growth in 2006 and more than 60 percent of the increase in world coal use over the past decade. India, responsible for just over 10 percent of the growth in the last 10 years, ranks a distant second.5

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