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AM Briefing: Peak Coal?

On global coal demand, Everest Base Camp, and a compelling climate graphic

AM Briefing: Peak Coal?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: A major storm will batter the U.S. Eastern Seaboard this weekend • Moscow is buried under record snowfall • It's 50 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudy in Paris, which was recently named the world's top city destination.


1. IEA: Coal demand remains high, but could peak soon

Global demand for coal remains at a record high, but is expected to start declining in 2026, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) “Coal 2023” report. Most advanced economies are ditching this dirtiest of fossil fuels: Coal consumption fell by about 20% in the United States and the European Union this year. But the same cannot be said for China, India, and Southeast Asia, where coal demand is growing. But a turning point could arrive soon, the report says. Global coal demand is expected to fall by 2.3% by 2026 compared with 2023 levels. A lot depends on China, which accounts for 54% of global coal consumption.


Relatedly, this week Australia announced its last remaining coal plant will retire by 2038. As renewables take over, “expect more such announcements around the world,” saysBloomberg Green’s Akshat Rathi.

2. White House tells federal employees to use EVs and rail travel

The Biden administration wants federal employees to use low- or zero-emission transportation when traveling for work. In a directive released yesterday, the White House said workers should travel by train for trips shorter than 250 miles, and especially in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, where rail travel is most accessible. If traveling by car is necessary, workers should opt for an EV. Employees should consider combining trips, taking public transportation, and avoid using their own private vehicles for work. Or better yet, they should avoid traveling at all. “In every case, the trip not taken is the least expensive and most sustainable,” the directive says. The federal government spent $1.66 billion on flights and $4.2 million on rail trips last year, Reutersreports. The White House says travel accounts for 1.8% of federal greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Al-Jaber says Adnoc will keep investing in oil and gas

Sultan Al-Jaber, who served as president of COP28, tellsThe Guardian that his company Adnoc will continue to invest in oil and gas production so long as the demand is there. Adnoc is the United Arab Emirates’ national oil and gas company, and Al-Jaber is its CEO. He was applauded this week after delegates at COP28 agreed to “transition away” from fossil fuels, but faced criticism earlier this month for saying there is “no science” showing that ending fossil fuel usage will limit global warming. He has said in the past that he believes fossil fuels will inevitably be phased out, but has qualified that by saying “we need to be real, serious and pragmatic about it.”

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  • 4. Glacial melting may force Everest Base Camp to relocate

    The glacier beneath Everest Base Camp is melting due to rising temperatures in the Himalayas, putting climbers at risk and forcing Nepal’s government to consider moving the camp, The Wall Street Journalreports. Everest tourism contributed $2.4 billion to Nepal’s economy last year, which is 6.1% of its GDP, and Base Camp is an essential gateway to the mountain. But ice at the camp is disappearing due to a combination of global warming and human activity. Moving the camp farther down the mountain is an option, but it would “make the climb to the top more dangerous than it already is,” the Journal explains. More people died on Mount Everest this year than ever before. A report released in June found that climate change could cause Himalayan glaciers to lose 80% of their volume this century.

    5. Earth’s rising temperature, expertly illustrated

    The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Climate Office recently announced its favorite “Little Pictures of Climate” for 2023. The competition highlights creators who use satellite-derived climate data tell visual stories about the changing planet. Here is one particularly compelling submission:

    A runner-up in the ESA's Little Pictures of Climate 2023 competitionESA


    The length of pipeline that would be needed to create a U.S. carbon capture network would be enough to circle Earth four times.

    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.


    AM Briefing: Here Comes Alberto

    On the tropical system in the Gulf, advanced nuclear reactors, and hybrid jet engines

    Texas Is Bracing for the First Named Storm of Hurricane Season
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Heat records are falling across the Midwest and Northeast while parts of the Pacific Northwest are seeing late-season snow • Wildfires in New Mexico have burned more than 20,000 acres • Nighttime temperatures remained near 100 degrees Fahrenheit in northern India.


    1. Tropical storm takes aim at Texas

    A weather system churning in the Gulf of Mexico could become the first named storm in what is expected to be a very busy hurricane season. Tropical Storm One, as it’s currently known, is “large but disorganized,” but is forecast to coalesce into Tropical Storm Alberto sometime today as it moves toward the coasts of Mexico and Texas and makes landfall tonight or tomorrow morning. A tropical storm warning was already issued for the Texas coast, indicating that high winds are on the way. Flash flooding is also very likely, especially across South Texas, where six to 10 inches of rain could fall.

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    Did Climate Change Do It?

    An extreme weather whodunit.

    Sherlock Holmes inspecting a hurricane.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Maybe you’re reading this in a downpour. Perhaps you’re reading it because you have questions about the upcoming hurricane season. Or maybe you’re reading it because you’re one of the 150 million Americans enduring record-breaking temperatures in this week’s heat dome.

    Whatever the reason, you have a question: Is this climate change?

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    How China’s EV Industry Got So Big

    Inside episode 20 of Shift Key.

    Chinese EVs.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    China’s electric vehicle industry has driven itself to the center of the global conversation. Its automakers produce dozens of affordable, technologically advanced electric vehicles that rival — and often beat — anything coming out of Europe or North America. The United States and the European Union have each levied tariffs on its car exports in the past few months, hoping to avoid a “China shock” to their domestic car industries.

    Ilaria Mazzocco has watched China’s EV industry grow from a small regional experiment into a planet-reshaping juggernaut. She is now a senior fellow with the Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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