This week, the Mines and Communities website ( has posted a set of articles about coal and climate change. Roger Moody, of Nostromo Research, introduces the postings below.
Within recent months, a Scandinavian capital has become the most talked-about city on the planet.
The capital is, of course, Copenhagen. It’s here that numerous heads of state, various ministers, and thousands of campaigners are now gathering to debate the ramifications of adverse climate change.
Some people still doubt the reality of the phenomenon. Others dispute its precise dimensions. Many opinions – often contradictory – are being canvassed as to how to deal with it.
But one crucial fact is surely beyond dispute: Coal burning is the single biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.
This week, we  approach Copenhagen, with that disturbing reality uppermost in mind, and some provocative articles that you may not find elsewhere.
Here’s a summary of the MAC COPENHAGEN SPECIAL –  with links to those stimulating pieces (click on phrases in brown type):
From Mining to Markets: the making of a mega-disaster?

There’s little doubt that global greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) have already exceeded their former “tipping point”, thus endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions.
Whatever protocols emerge from this month’s climate change summit, nothing on the table so far augurs more than a temporary abatement to the growing rise in these emissions.
Perhaps some of us have already shut ourselves to the pre-Copenhagen pontificating by governments and companies. This week, and next, we hope not to add to such hot air.
Instead, we focus on some hard realities that many delegates (even some NGOs) still seem to ignore.
The most important of these realities can be summed up in a phrase: it’s to do with coal.
Obviously there are manifold triggers of adverse climate change. However, coal usage plays a greater role than any other. That’s confirmed, not only by the man who “discovered” global warming, but also in a sober scientific study released last month.
Coal is for burning
The mining, transportation and burning of this fossil fuel has now become more vital to electricity generation than oil or gas, let alone so-called “renewables”.  And governments’ plans – not to mention those of the mining industry – to further excavate the “black stuff” are advancing faster than ever before. This week, we present three diverse Country profiles (more will follow) to back this assertion.
India – already dependent on coal for two-thirds of its power – will actually emit more GGE over the coming decade than at present.  South Africa intends to build a massive coal-fired power plant, partly to serve requirements in its platinum belt. Mongolia – miniscule as a GGE “culprit” compared with most other states – is about to permit mining of a world-class coal deposit.
This isn’t all the “coal toll” – by a long shot. Much of the fuel’s output goes towards the refining and smelting of metals, and into cement kilns, where their contributions to GGE are highly significant.
Mining coal also releases exiguous amounts of methane – 23 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, and the prime cause of underground explosions that kill thousands of workers each year.
The burning of coal is more egregious to human health than has so far been generally recognised. Turning coal into liquid fuel (CTL), to serve the growing transportation sector, releases 40 percent more carbon dioxide than oil when burned, according to one scientific report.
Is coal for turning?
This is not to say we can – or even should – ban dependence on coal overnight.
Mines and Communities is acutely aware of the misery that such a precipitate decision would bring to millions. A “just transition” to alternative fuels will take time, but this makes it all the more urgent to embark on this course right now.
Not to mention the importance of developing a realistic picture of how many people – and species – are likely to be uprooted, thanks to exacerbated global warming; and how much of this involuntary eviction can be ascribed specifically to coal and other mining.
Arguably, there are ways to exploit this carbon resource, which may lay claim to being “clean” and without requiring it be dug up.
In the long run, however, every proposal bulwarking the case for mining further coal, is flawed.
The big three C’s –  carbon emission credits, carbon cap and trade, carbon capture and storage – depend on untested science, dubious economics and flagrantly self-serving market manipulation for their success.
Meanwhile, as insurance agencies warn they may not be able to cope with claims following climate-related disasters, the World Bank sets its own cap at financing projects which risk compounding those very losses.
Let’s face the awful truth.
So long as we fail to keep coal forever in the ground, then any “run” to save our earth must be a very short one indeed.
[This commentary is provided by Nostromo Research].