GOOD Magazine | Zinn Education Project, January 25, 2013
By Bill Bigelow
The most dangerous substance in the world is barely mentioned in the school curriculum. Coal.
According to the International Energy Agency, burning coal creates more greenhouse gases than any other source—including oil. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and arguably the world’s foremost climatologist, has called coal “the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on the planet.”
And, as 350.org founder Bill McKibben pointed out recently in a remarkable article in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” from a mathematical standpoint, it is demonstrably impossible to prevent the climate from spinning out of control with unimaginably horrible consequences, if we burn the fossil fuels that energy corporations are in the process of exploiting and selling. And the worst fossil fuel from a climate standpoint is coal—responsible for 45 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a third more polluting in terms of carbon dioxide than oil, and twice as polluting as natural gas.
So when you think about Superstorm Sandy, melting ice caps, wildfires in Australia, drought in the Southwest, floods in Pakistan, climate refugees from Bangladesh, dying polar bears and species you’ve never heard of, increased rates of asthma, and farmland that can no longer be farmed—think coal.