The deeper they dig, the likeliness of irreversible climate change heightens... and they don't seem to be stopping.
In Dhanbad, India, the heart of India's coal fields has seen decades of strip mining, desolating the landscape and sickening the residents. So, you would think that they would stop right? Maybe rethink this extreme exploitation of land? But no, instead they dig deeper and deeper into a coal rush that scientists deem irreversible climate change will be the outcome, and make India's already extremely polluted cities even more uninhabitable.
According to The New York Times , “If India goes deeper and deeper into coal, we’re all doomed,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the world’s top climate scientists. “And no place will suffer more than India.”
These coal mining plans may interfere with any hope of a global climate pact to be negotiated at the Climate Change Conference in Paris next year. The United States, China and Europe have all pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, India is the worlds third-largest emitter, and has shown no inclination of carbon emissions targets.
The New York Times quotes India's power minister, Piyush Goyal, at a recent conference in New Dehli,
“India’s development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate changes many years in the future, The West will have to recognize we have the needs of the poor.”
In fact, Mr. Goyal has promised to double India's use of domestic coal from 565 million tons last year to more than a billion tons by 2019. The government may denationalise commercial coal mining to accelerate extraction.
It is estimated that 37 million Indians could be displaced due to rising sea levels by 2050. India's cities are among the hottest in the world. Their traffic is the deadliest in the world, and will increase with new mining activities. Climate change will effect India forcefully, and they are a major obstacle in trying to reverse these effects!
The coal India contains is of poor quality, with a high ash content that makes it about twice as polluting as coal from the West. 90 percent of India's coal is from strip mines, which are far more environmentally costly than underground mines. Mercury poisoning has caused generations of villagers with extreme health conditions.
India uses coal because that is what it has, but could this lead the world into extreme environmental dystopia? If India is already so polluted that people are suffering from extreme health conditions such as contorted bodies and decaying teeth, where the air quality is so poor that it is becoming worse that China's.
There is hope though... In India's western state of Madhya Pradesh, Welspun Energy has constructed Asia's largest solar plant, a $148 million farm of photovoltaic panels on 800 acres of barren soil.
The New York Times quotes,
The benefits of solar and the environmental costs of coal are so profound that India has no other choice but to rely more on renewables, said Dr. Pachauri.
Let's hope the India's government can see the benefits of renewables!