Coal Impacts Could Push 122 Million People Into Poverty
Coal, one of the world’s most valuable economic resources, is keeping the poor impoverished and, in some cases, making them poorer.

According to a new Oxfam report, coal impacts could push 122 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.

While it is true that coal can help spread economic growth, more economic production requires an already existing affordable and reliable energy supply. There are many alternatives to coal production that pollute less and are cost competitive.

For poverty to be reduced, a given economy must grow, just as poverty-reducing progress tends to help grow a given economy. Because of this, it is a common assumption that expanding coal’s economic presence aids those in poverty. Coal theoretically provides electricity to the poor, but the poor are able to use very little of that electricity due to its high costs.

People in rural areas do not use nearly as much electricity as those in cities. 84 percent of energy-poor households are in rural areas far from the grid, so an increase in coal-based energy has an insignificant economic impact in these areas and a negative environmental impact in cities.

Australia is one of the main offenders highlighted in Oxfam’s report.“Against the backdrop of an imperiled Great Barrier Reef and extreme weather disasters, Australia’s carbon pollution is continuing to climb — the tragic consequence of more than a decade of climate policy paralysis and short-term political opportunism,” said Helen Szoke, CEO of Oxfam Australia.

The study is pushing for Australia to stop boosting the coal industry, especially since Oxfam has proposed $300 million in subsidies for repurposing an old coal mine in Queensland.

Oxfam acknowledges the significant increase in the world’s poor in developing nations that do not benefit from changes in energy production, but the company is looking from a wider economic perspective. Oxfam’s recent report definitely proves the way in which coal impacts the environment and poverty around the world.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr