Making the transition

How much coal is there in the world? Where is it found? How much of it should we keep in the ground to avoid negative environmental impacts? Can renewable energy really replace it? How is the transition going to look like?
  • There are an estimated 1.1 trillion tonnes of proven coal reserves worldwide. This means that there is enough coal to last us around 150 years at current rates of production.
  • Coal reserves are available in almost every country worldwide, with recoverable reserves in around 70 countries. The most prominent reserves are in the USA, Russia, China and India.
A 2015 study in the journal Nature revealed that we need to leave at least 80% of the world’s known remaining fossil fuel (coal + oil + natural gas) reserves in the ground to prevent runaway climate change. It’s 2018 now.
What’s the alternative? A lot of doubts float around renewable energy’s power. Here’s taking the cloud off of it:
  • Renewable energy is not expensive.
  • Renewable energy is big enough to power the whole world.
  • Renewable energy can supply electricity 24X7.
  • Our infrastructure can handle renewable energy.
  • Renewable energy is not bad for the environment.


In India, coal is expected to stay for at least the next 30 years due to its abundance and cost advantage. In the meantime, we have a family of technologies called Carbon capture and storage (CCS) that can help.

Technology, however, doesn’t solve everything.

How do we make this transition humanely? What about the lives that are dependent on the fossil fuel industry? Iron & Earth is led by oilsands workers committed to incorporating more renewable energy projects into our work scope.

What happens to the landscapes where the coal mines exist? Worldwide, former mining lands have become valuable real estate.  This floating solar farm in China, for instance, sits on a coal mine.

Shout out: Thanks, D, for suggesting this topic! :)

Water pollution in China and India

On August 2nd, 2013, I re-blogged an article ‘The greening of China’ in my blog titled ‘Optimistically green China‘. While China intends to go greener, another renewable energy, hydropower, cannot be overlooked. A study by Sean Gallagher, a Beijing-based British environmental photojournalist mentioned that ‘renewable energy has no negative consequences’ is a myth, busted in a guest post by him at National Geographic.

water pollution in china and indiaKeeping renewable energy aside, what’s even more concerning is the pollution of the water systems in China. A new video by The Economist that hosts Mr John Parker, tells us how exactly this has happened and its implications.

Not to mention the smog that’s making China rethink on the strategies to host Olympics, an air pollution disaster. The World Bank has a multi-year, multi-sector study that estimates the physical and economic cost of air and water pollution in China. It speaks of water scarcity and what remains too is polluted, the impact of which is significant.

Watching India lying next to China, in terms of demographics, I wonder if India is taking sufficient measures to avoid such a situation. India Infrastructure Report 2011 and Water in India: Situation and Prospects, a report by UNICEF puts forwards the harsh realities that exist and the measures that are being taken.

India cannot be categorized as a water scarce country like China, but it sure does fall into the ‘water-stressed’ category. Although scarcity is also an effect of natural phenomenon like drought, it sure can be avoided if water resources are not over-polluted or over-used. Water can be kept safe for drinking through proper waste disposal and sanitation. In my blog ‘Water mining and its consequences‘, I mentioned how water mining can also lead to water shortage, so that’s one other aspect we can deal with to avoid future scarcity.

Read more:

Performance audit of water pollution in India

Optimistically green China

“Its current five-year plan calls for a rise in the proportion of power generated from non-fossil fuels of 3.4% to 11.4% of total energy use by 2015, to be accompanied by a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 17% compared with 2010.” – John Pearson at

Read more about how China is going green in this article: The greening of China