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China Bans New Coal Mines: Why Hasn't U.S. Done the Same?

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China Bans New Coal Mines: Why Hasn't U.S. Done the Same?

China has taken a bold step to address pollution and oversupply issues plaguing the country’s energy market: a three-year ban on new coal mines.

Starting this year, the country will suspend all new permit applications for coal mines for the next three years. In addition, officials also announced that they plan to close approximately 1,000 coal mines throughout the country, taking away more than 60 million metric tons of excess coal supply—unneeded as China moves to decrease its reliance on coal.

While the Obama administration has taken important steps to burn less coal as a key step to reduce pollution and address climate change, there has not yet been any meaningful effort to stop approving coal mine expansions. Coal mine expansions are rubber-stamped even when mining companies are aiming to export our coal abroad.

Why is the Obama administration’s Interior Department continuing to approve more mining for coal we don’t need and can’t afford to burn?

China and the U.S. are the two largest coal producing nations. Both countries made promises in the lead up to last month’s Paris talks to address the serious threat of climate change by taking measures in their own countries to cut emissions and move toward a clean energy future. It is clear that China is taking an important step to follow through on that promise by stopping new coal mines and the expansion of coal production. The U.S. should do the same.

In fact, following the climate talks, Greenpeace joined other groups in asking that the Obama administration reject or pause 25 pending federal coal leases, which combined total more than 2.5 billion tons of publicly owned coal.

President Obama should use his last year in office to effectively put measures in place that keep fossil fuels in the ground. Joining China in banning new coal mine permits could be a step on the long road toward a climate-safe future.

Take action today: tell President Obama that climate leadership means keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

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The Forest Vixen's CC Photo Stream. Flickr / CC BY 2.0


Spring is coming. And soon, tree swallows will start building nests. But as the climate changes, the birds are nesting earlier in the spring.


"It's getting warmer overall. They're thinking, OK, it's a good time to breed, to lay my eggs," says Lily Twining of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany.

She says that despite recent warming, late-season cold snaps remain common. Those cold snaps can harm newborn chicks.

Hatchlings cannot regulate their body temperature, so they are vulnerable to hypothermia. And the insects they eat stop flying in cold weather, potentially leaving the chicks to starve.

"These chicks are growing very, very fast," Twining says. "They have very high energy demands, so… if they don't get a lot of that good high-quality food during this pretty specific time… that's when these cold weather events seem to be most devastating."

For example, data from Ithaca, New York, shows that a single cold snap in 2016 killed more than 70% of baby tree swallows.

"And there have been more and more of these severe cold weather die-off events for these tree swallows as they've been breeding earlier and earlier over the past 40 or so years," Twining says.

So for these songbirds, earlier springs can come with devastating consequences.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy / ChavoBart Digital Media

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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