Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published May 3, 2014 at 8:05 PM | Page modified May 3, 2014 at 10:03 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

We all have a stake in China’s embrace of coal


Seattle Times staff reporter

Graphic: China's exports account for 22% of the nation's carbon emissions

Click to see an enlarged version of the graphic.

advertising

We are losing ground in the struggle to control carbon emissions.

Despite surging investments in solar and wind, carbon-rich coal has been the energy superstar around the globe during the early years of the 21st century as demand soared in Asia.

Carbon dioxide emissions from coal and other fossil fuels already are changing the climate and turning oceans more acidic.

Without a major course correction, scientists warn that later in this century we will enter a perilous new era that could include sea levels high enough to flood low-lying coastal cities, widespread loss of coral reefs and big decreases in winter snowpacks that store water.

In the Pacific Northwest, concerns over carbon dioxide are at the core of a fierce debate about proposals to build terminals to export American coal to Asia.

Yet those of us who live here already are helping stoke Asian carbon emissions. That’s because so much industry has been outsourced to China, where coal provides the energy to produce stainless steel for our refrigerators, the plastics in our toys and the computer chips in our iPhones.

Relying mainly on its own vast reserves, China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined. It has pulled past the United States to emerge as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2.

China’s coal has helped fuel an extraordinary economic boom that in recent decades has pulled some 500 million people out of poverty.

Facing growing international pressure to reduce carbon emissions and an internal backlash against air pollution, China is rapidly developing alternative power generated from solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear energy.

At the same time, its coal use continues to grow, although more slowly than in years past.

We all have a stake in what happens next.

How far — and how fast — China moves away from coal will help determine how high carbon levels climb in the 21st century.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The Seattle Times Historical Archives

Browse our newspaper page archives from 1900-1984


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►