Cutting global coal use is the single most important thing to do, if we want to prevent the effects of climate change from becoming catastrophic. As such, the use of coal in China is a critical issue for the entire world. In 2009, China consumed 49% of the world’s coal, much of that to produce exports that went to other countries, from steel girders to iPods.
Much of the coal China uses is produced and shipped domestically (sometimes causing carbon tariffs). The fact that Chinaâ€™s leadership is less clueless about science than those in Canada and the U.S. may help. That said, it will take an enormous effort to decarbonize the global economy before catastrophic climate change has been locked in. Curbing coal burning in China will be one of the key battles in that overall effort.
Beyond climate change, air pollution from coal also causes enormous death and suffering in China – further reason to push aggressively toward better energy options.