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WIREs Clim Change
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Coal and climate change

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Abstract This overview adopts a critical social science perspective to examine the state of play and potential futures for coal in the context of climate change. It introduces key trends in coal consumption, production and trade, before reviewing the relevant literature. Finding surprisingly little literature directly focused on coal and climate change, it appraises existing work and highlights key areas for future research. In addition to established literatures on the situated politics of coal and the political economy of coal, new work calling for demand side policies to be supplemented with supply side policies highlights the increasing importance of normative contestations in driving debates over coal. This suggests that scholars must engage much more directly with climate change as an issue, and particularly with the place of coal in a just transition. Because of coal's mammoth contribution to climate change and the complex political economy which drives its production and consumption, it is likely that coal will remain at the center of difficult questions about the relationship between climate action and development for quite some time. This article is categorized under: Climate and Development > Decoupling Emissions from Development
Historical consumption share of the top 10 coal consuming countries in 2016. Based on IEA data from coal information (Reprinted with permission from IEA (). Copyright 2018 OECD/IEA, www.iea.org/statistics). License: www.iea.org/t_c; as modified by G.A.S. Edwards
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Historical production share of the top 10 coal consuming countries in 2016. Based on IEA data from coal information (Reprinted with permission from IEA (). Copyright 2018 OECD/IEA, www.iea.org/statistics). License: www.iea.org/t_c; as modified by G.A.S. Edwards
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Major coal (a) exporters and (b) importers in 2016. Based on IEA data from coal information (Reprinted with permission from IEA (). Copyright 2018 OECD/IEA, www.iea.org/statistics). License: www.iea.org/t_c; as modified by G.A.S. Edwards. Useful visualizations of the global coal trade both by weight and value based on UN Commodity Trade Statistics can be found at resourcetrade.earth (Chatham House, )
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