Climate Change Impacts of Coal
We all, globally bear the costs of climate change caused by greenhouse gases emitted during the extraction, transport and burning of coal.
Changes such as global warming, drought, heat waves and sea level rise are factors that can radically change human settlements, economic activities, notably agriculture, and life styles. Furthermore, experts warn about the biological risks that climate change causes to human health.
Globally, the total lifetime carbon dioxide amount emitted by coal-fired power plants in operating, pre-construction and development stages is far above the carbon budgets of international climate targets. Total carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants in operating and construction stages is 233 Gt. This figure is too high for the carbon budget we have left in order to achieve the target of limiting global warming to 1,5°C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this target, all the coal-fired power plant projects in the world need to be cancelled and the majority of the existing coal plants need to be retired before they reach 40 years in operation.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) October 2018 report revealed that limiting global warming to 1,5°C is crucial for us all. According to the report, this target is still achievable if we achieve one the most important conditions, which is to urgently phase out coal investments and net zero carbon consumption by 2035 for OECD countries including Turkey, and by 2050 for non-OECD countries. It is not only Muğla residents who will suffer the consequences of Turkey’s determination to continue coal investments, everyone from Fiji to Sweden will pay the price.
According to Professor Doğanay Tolunay’s calculations for The Real Costs of Coal research,
in the event that the forest ecosystems within the boundaries of Yatağan and Milas coal mining lease areas are entirely destroyed for coal mines, the loss of biomass, soil, above ground dead organic matter and dead wood will lead to a carbon sink area loss equivalent to 9 million tons of carbon dioxide. The projected estimate for total carbon loss from the destruction of carbon sinks is 66,200 tons of CO2e per year Calculations show that 30 years of mining activity will lead to a total carbon loss of 2 million tons of CO2e.
The report card on the carbon emissions of Muğla’s three coal-fired plants is pretty grim.
The coal burnt to generate electricity in power plants in Yatağan, Yeniköy and Kemerköy emitted a total of 360 million tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Currently, there still are no economically feasible technologies to capture carbon dioxide before it is emitted to the atmosphere. Hence, we will all globally bear the burden of burning coal even after the upgrade investments planned for Yatağan, Yeniköy and Kemerköy coal-fired power plants: if these power plants continue to operate until 2043, they will an additional 328 million tons of carbon dioxide.
It should be noted that methane gas emissions from coal fields, exhaust gas carbon dioxide emissions during the transportation of coal from extraction sites to power plants, and greenhouse gas emitted during the other stages are not included in this calculation.
Forests play a very important role in storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Carbon is stored not only in forest ecosystems, but in all plant biomass and soil. Human activities that wipe out forest ecosystems cause climate change by destroying carbon sinks as well as triggering the release of carbon dioxide stored by them.