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Coal
Thurber
ISBN: 978-1-5095-1400-7
Hardcover
200 pages
March 2019, Polity
This is an out of stock title.
  • Description
  • Table of Contents
By making available the almost unlimited energy stored in prehistoric plant matter, coal enabled the industrial age - and it still does. Coal today generates more electricity worldwide than any other energy source, helping drive economic growth in major emerging markets. And yet continued reliance on this ancient rock carries a high price. Just as pollution from burning coal choked British cities during the Industrial Revolution, so it remains a deadly scourge in the fast-growing economies of Asia and elsewhere. Coal is also the single largest contributor to anthropogenic climate change.

We use coal because it is cheap: cheap to scrape from the ground in Borneo or Wyoming or many other places, cheap to move in ships and rail cars, cheap to burn in power plants with inadequate environmental controls. Coal will remain the default energy source for much of the world until its full environmental cost is accounted for across this supply chain. Mark Thurber delves into the politics of energy versus the environment around the world to show why this hasn’t happened yet.

Coal’s dominance is supported by local and national politics that create false dichotomies of jobs versus environmental protection, international diplomacy in which countries try to cure others’ sins before their own, fragmented environmental movements that lose sight of the forest for the trees, and polities that rarely treat climate change mitigation as a top-tier priority.
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