Futuribles Journal n° 357

Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement

Coal’s Big Comeback. An Issue at the Centre of Climate Negotiations

Next month (December 2009) in Copenhagen an international conference will take place that will be crucial for the future of our planet’s climate, since its aim is to follow up the Kyoto agreement and to tackle global warming more effectively than is currently being done. Energy questions are central to what is at stake here, since most of the greenhouse gas emissions that give rise to global warming are energy-related. Oil is clearly to the fore among the most stigmatized sources of energy, but we should not forget another fossil fuel that is equally problematic in the long term, namely coal.
As Jean-Marie Martin-Amouroux shows here, this energy source, which seems something of a throwback to the past, has been genuinely resurgent in recent years, particularly because of consumption levels in the booming Asian economies. In the light of currently observed trends, coal could lead to a doubling of CO2 emissions by 2050. Hence the need to understand the trends in the use of this energy source in recent decades and to form a clear idea of longer-term trends in the use of coal. This is what Jean-Marie Martin-Amouroux undertakes here. He outlines very precisely the issues around coal production and consumption throughout the world, together with the prospects for coal usage. He produces possible future scenarios and, by way of this thoroughgoing analysis, shows what the impact of a return to coal could be on our climate, unless techniques of “clean coal” production – such as carbon capture and storage – are properly developed.

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