China and India have lots of coal

China and India both have populations of more than one billion, and both nations are undergoing rapid economic development. Both also depend heavily on coal, using it to meet 70%, and 50%, respectively, of their total commercial energy needs in 2007 (the comparable figure is 24% for the US).[[British Petroleum. Primary Table of Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel Type, (PDF) British Petroleum, June 2008.]]

Just as in the US, moreover, both China and India have a lot of coal left to burn — 45 years’ worth for China and 118 years’ worth for India, at current rates of use.

Coal is also the greatest contributor to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which in turn is raising the planet’s temperature. By 2100, according to the IPCC, global temperatures could rise by an average of 7°F if CO2 emissions continue to grow at the current rate. In the US, the increase could be more like 9°F.

One way to limit emissions and thus limit the rise in temperatures would be through increased efficiency. But many experts believe that so-called clean-coal technology, where carbon is removed from coal-plant exhaust and buried underground is a key to the reductions necessary to avoid significant climate impacts. See the microanimation for a graphic illustration of how this technology works.