Coal: A Lifeline, Not a Curse!
Can you imagine a city of 12 million people plunged into darkness?
I experienced that recently. Thunderstorms disrupted electricity in Bengaluru, India, where I live. Sitting in the dark, I pondered how precious electricity is and how important fossil fuels, which provide most of it, are.
Summer evenings in tropical countries can be hot. Humidity peaks on afternoons when rain is around the corner. A power outage makes it very uncomfortable and sultry.
After 6 hours of darkness, my power returned at about 10:30 p.m. Finally we could make our dinner. But I couldn’t stop thinking about where our electricity came from.
I grew up in the 1990s. Coal and hydro provided most of the electricity in my area. A coal shortage meant electricity interruption and hours of darkness. Industries came to a halt. Two decades later, India has advanced by leaps and bounds. Nuclear plants increased our generating capacity. But coal remains king of our energy sector.
Coal-fired plants provide more than 75 percent of India’s electricity. Most of the power I enjoy probably comes from coal.
India achieved energy surplus in 2018. It generated more electricity than it consumed. How? Increased use of coal. Yet all you hear about coal and fossil fuels is that they are evil. They pollute the air and cause global warming.
I’m a life-long beneficiary of coal-powered electricity, and gasoline for my vehicles. So I can’t condemn them without strong reasons. Despite over a decade as a climate scientist, I don’t have such reasons.
In 2009, I was studying for my master’s degree in environmental sciences at England’s University of East Anglia. It was among the top universities for climate-change research.
As I was learning about climate change, the biggest scandal in climate science — Climategate — broke. My department was at its heart. Emails of professors at the Climatic Research Unit (my department) revealed a global effort to exaggerate warming by manipulating data.
I continued my graduate research in climate in Canada. I found that current warming is nowhere near as dangerous as claimed. I also discovered that global temperatures have always changed. They were much warmer twice in the past 2000 years.
More recently, I learned that carbon dioxide emissions cannot increase temperatures as much as alarmists claim. For the past 19 years, rapidly increasing emissions caused no significant warming.
And now, Indian scientists (who rely on coal-based electricity for their research institutions) predict that the next two solar cycles will be weak. They could cool the globe to levels like those of the Little Ice Age in the 17th century.
What I’ve learned as a climate scientist forbids me to vilify fossil fuels. Climate alarmism is based on imaginary forecasts, not real-world data.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Bangalore, India.