Last week, Scotland closed the last of its coal power plants. “The Longannet power station, the last and largest coal-fired power plant in Scotland, ceased operations Thursday. What once was the largest coal plant in Europe shut down after 46 years before the eyes of workers and journalists, who gathered in the main control room . . . For a country which virtually invented the Industrial Revolution, this is a hugely significant step, marking the end of coal and the beginning of the end for fossil fuels in Scotland,” Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said in a statement. The closure was seen as an “end of an era”, according to Hugh Finlay, generation director at Scottish Power. (https://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/03/24/3763158/scotland-closes-last-coal-plant/)
It is said that the Industrial Revolution was the precursor of the vast-changing climate that we all witness today — a heavy price indeed to pay to sustain a fossil fuel–obsessed lifestyle. While with industrialization, the standard of living improved, we burned tremendous amount of fossil fuels such as coal and oil for energy, which produced the polluting greenhouse gases that cause climate change. There is already an excess of carbon concentration in the atmosphere which has caused sea level rise, melting of the glaciers, intense and more frequent typhoons, biodiversity loss, death and displacements of people.
Burning coal is the number one source of human-induced carbon dioxide emission. This is the reason why 195 countries, such as the Philippines, approved the first universal and legally binding climate action deal three months ago in Paris. We committed to reduce our carbon footprint together with the rest of the world. We should, as we are one of the most vulnerable to the dire impacts of climate change.
Our country was even the leader of the Climate Vulnerable Forum with a common position to limit warming by 1.5 C during the negotiations in Paris before the historic Paris Agreement was clinched.
Yet, fighting the climate crisis is still lop-sided, with champions that come from mostly non-government organizations and a handful of exemplary public sector leaders like Senator Loren Legarda, Albay Governor Joey Salceda and Cebu City lawmakers Councilor Nestor Archival and Nida Cabrera.
Citizens should be more vigorous in leading the fight against coal and pressuring political authorities to prioritize their rights to life, health and environment.
Coal burning is never healthy for us and the ecosystem. “Coal combustion releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health.” Many studies have confirmed the negative effects of burning coal. The report by Physicians for Social Responsibility, which can be accessed at https://www.psr.org/coalreport, “looks at the cumulative harm inflicted by those pollutants on three major body organ systems: the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, and the nervous system.” (https://www.psr.org/news-events/press-releases/coal-pollution-damages-human-health.html?referrer=https://www.google.com.ph)
Coal-fired power plants have significant impacts on water quality and quantity. Ever wonder why all coal power plants are along the coasts?
A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists declare that “Coal plants, like most other steam-producing electricity-generating plants, typically withdraw and consume water from nearby water bodies, such as lakes, rivers, or oceans, to create steam for turning their turbines.
“A typical coal plant with a once-through cooling system withdraws between 70 and 180 billion gallons of water per year and consumes 0.36 to 1.1 billion gallons of that water. A typical coal plant with a wet-recirculating cooling system withdraws only a fraction as much as a once-through-cooled plant, but consumes 1.7 to 4.0 billion gallons per year, while a typical coal plant with a dry-cooled system consumes much less.”
What are the effects on the marine resources? “When water is drawn into a coal power plant, millions of fish eggs, fish larvae, and juvenile fish may also come along with it. In addition, millions of adult fish may become trapped against the intake structures. Many of these fish are injured or die in the process.” (https://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02b.html#.VveUVuJ95D8)
“Water pollution from coal includes negative health and environmental effects from the mining, processing, burning, and waste storage of coal, including acid mine drainage, thermal pollution from coal plants, acid rain, and contamination of groundwater, streams, rivers, and seas from heavy metals, mercury, and other toxins and pollutants found in coal ash, coal sludge, and coal waste.” (https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Water_pollution_from_coal)
It is quite alarming that the country and Cebu, in particular, allow more coal-fired power plants to be constructed, despite the awareness of the negative consequences of having one and the fact that its authorities have not been implementing the provisions of our environmental laws.
We have alternative energy sources such as solar power which even temperate countries like Germany and the United States have shifted to. Even China has stopped the construction of coal power plants. We certainly have the legal framework for the use of renewable energy and the protection of our environment. What is extremely lacking is the much-needed political will to lead us to a sustainable, healthier and carbon-free future.
Where are the public authorities who should have been the first to stand in line in defending our rights to a healthful and balanced ecology and the right to life and health of our people?
Now there is news of another coal-fired power plant planned to be built in the heart of the city. This is simply outrageous.
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