Burning Coal Drives Global Poverty as Well as Climate Disaster, New Paper Argues

October 2, 2020 0 By JohnValbyNation

Putting to rest the industry argument that cheap, dirty coal is somehow a solution to extreme global poverty, a coalition of development experts published a new paper on Tuesday arguing that, in fact, coal is one of the major forces driving climate change, which they say is “the greatest long-term threat to eradicating poverty.”

The paper, Beyond Coal: scaling up clean energy to fight global poverty (pdf), makes the case that in developing nations, coal has been given “too much credit for the reduction of extreme poverty.”

Moreover, the coalition—which includes the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Oxfam International, and the India-based Vashuda Foundation—argues that the widespread use of coal has had a detrimental impact on poor populations while at the same time contributing the most carbon emissions of any fuel source, hastening dangerous climate change.

“The immediate human health impacts of coal in the developing world are staggering, particularly for poor people who are the least equipped to deal with the  economic burdens of illness, a premature death in the  household, or degraded water and land resources,” the paper notes.

Further, climate change threatens “to undermine the productivity of both marine and terrestrial food production systems, the main source of income for roughly 2.7 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and China.”

But “beyond these immediate impacts,” the paper continues, “burning coal is also a major driver of the greatest long-term threat to eradicating  poverty: climate change.” The report cites a 2015 study by ODI which found that by 2050, climate change impacts could draw an estimated 720 million people into extreme poverty.