Keeping global temperatures from dangerous levels means China must pivot away from coal immediately. Its soaring energy demand and rolling blackouts mean it probably won’t.

On the northern edge of a vast Chinese factory city, welding torches gleam as workers finish construction on a gas-fired power plant to replace one that burned coal and blanketed the surrounding neighborhood in a sooty pall, the New York Times reports.

It’s one of several huge gas-fired plants being built to pump more electricity throughout this sprawling industrial city of about 10 million, where rising demand for power has led to rationing and blackouts that are now rippling across eastern China and threaten international supply chains, reports the New York Times.

This archipelago of power plants underlines an unsettling reality in the global fight to slow climate change. China burns more fossil fuels than any other nation, making it the planet’s top source of the greenhouse gases that are warming the Earth. And its voracious appetite for electricity is only growing.

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has promised his country will start reducing carbon dioxide and other gases generated by burning coal, gas and oil by 2030 and then stop adding them to the atmosphere altogether by 2060. But climate scientists warn that nations must make a sharp turn away from fossil fuels now, in order to avert the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

 

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