Fossil fuels, including everything from natural gas and coal to oil and jet fuel, are pumping more and more carbon dioxide [CO2] into the atmosphere than ever before. The demand for energy, especially since the industrial age began some two hundred years ago, means that more fuel needs to be burned into order to meet it.
The easy route is to burn more fossil fuels, which are readily available. On the other hand, CO2 is the major contributor to global warming, about 1.4°F in the last two centuries.
The United Nations [UN], in 2010, came to an agreement that we must take action now to limit temperatures to just 3.6°F over pre-industrial times, but a new study seems to be in contradiction. Predictions by the International Energy Agency [IEA] indicate that global coal burning will continue to increase over the next five years, especially in India and China.
Even highly developed nations, such as Japan, are scaling up coal burning in the face of increased energy demands and the lack of public support for nuclear energy. “This is going backwards,” says Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh, UK.
If IEA’s predictions are true, then the UN’s 3.6° target could be in serious jeopardy, as coal burning has the highest CO2 emissions of any fossil fuel. Carbon Capture & Storage [CCS] technology could recover the CO2 from the increasing use of coal-plants, as well as oil- and gas-plants, but there isn’t a whole lot of pressure to implement the expensive technology. By the time CCS does get forced onto fossil fuel burning plants, it could be too late, anyways.