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Featured Story Click title below for the whole story

Act on Climate Change, but Tackle Other Global Problems, Too

In the year 2393 a historian in the Second People's Republic of China penned a book about how scientists, economists and politicians living in the 21st century failed to act on the solid science they had that gave clear warnings of the climate catastrophe ahead. As a result, the world experienced the Great Collapse of 2093, bringing an end to Western civilization.

So speculate historians of science Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University and Erik Conway of the California Institute of Technology in their book The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (Columbia University Press, 2014), a short scientific-historical fantasy. During the second half of the 20th century—the “Period of the Penumbra”—a shadow of anti-intellectualism “fell over the once-Enlightened techno-scientific nations of the Western world ... preventing them from acting on the scientific knowledge available at the time and condemning their successors to the inundation and desertification of the late twenty-first and twenty-second centuries.”

Why the failure to act? The authors' future historian posits several causes: blind optimism; religion; reductionism that prevented scientists from understanding holistic systems; disciplinary narrowness that restricted cross-field communication between scientists; adherence to avoiding type I errors (believing a hypothesis is real when it isn't) over type II errors (not believing a hypothesis is real when it is); and insistence on a 95 percent confidence limit for statistical significance that caused scientists to dismiss as unproved climate effects caused by warmer weather, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Between 1751 and 2012 more than 365 billion metric tons of carbon was released into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to increase, the historian notes. Another century of warming devastated the populations of Australia and Africa, and those of Europe, Asia and North America had to move inland from flooded coastal regions.

This science-historical fantasy is thought-provoking, but is it prescient? Global warming is, of course, real and caused by human activity. But predicting how much warmer it is going to get and what the consequences will be is extremely difficult because estimates include error bars that grow wider the further out the models run. The precautionary principle states that we should act, just in case. But act on what? Climate change is not our only problem, and we do not have unlimited resources. Which problem should we tackle and how much should we spend?

In the second edition (2014) of his book How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, Bjørn Lomborg reports the findings of a study sponsored by his Copenhagen Consensus Center 2012 project in which more than 50 economists evaluated 39 proposals on how best to solve such problems as armed conflicts, natural disasters, hunger, disease, education and climate change. Climate change barely rated a mention in the top 10, which included, in order, malnutrition interventions, malaria treatment, childhood immunization, deworming of schoolchildren, tuberculosis treatment, research and development to increase crop yields, early-warning systems for natural disasters, hepatitis B immunization, and low-cost drugs for acute heart attack. Number 12 was R&D for geoengineering solutions to climate change, and number 17 was R&D for green energy technologies. The rest of the top 30 were related to disease, water and sanitation, biodiversity, hunger, education, population growth and natural disasters.

The ranking is based on a cost-benefit analysis. For example, an investment of $300 million “would prevent the deaths of 300,000 children, if it were used to strengthen the Global Fund's malaria-financing mechanism.” Another $300 million would deworm 300 million children, and $122 million would lead to total hepatitis B vaccine coverage and thereby prevent another 150,000 annual deaths. Low-cost drugs to treat acute heart disease would cost just $200 million and save 300,000 people.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't do more about climate change. But what? Both books posit technological solutions: Lomborg's Copenhagen experts recommend spending $1 billion for research on planet-cooling geoengineering technologies; Oreskes and Conway have humanity saved by the creation in 2090 of a lichenized fungus that consumes atmospheric carbon dioxide. Whatever we do about climate, we should recognize that the world has many problems. If you are malnourished and diseased, what the climate will be like at the end of the century is not a high priority. Given limited resources, we should not let ourselves be swept away by the apocalyptic fear generated by any one threat.

By Michael Shermer, from Scientific American

This month's top international coal headlines

  • Buffalo Coal halts production at Magdalena mine — African Mining
  • China coal import ban to hit SA and Australia — Mining News
  • Indian thermal coal buyers turn to Indonesia amid South Africa tightness
    — Platts CTI
  • CIF ARA thermal coal spot prices slip $1 as October trades at near 9-week low
    — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay FOB thermal coal prices tick up with Indian appetite — Platts CTI
  • CIF ARA spot market falls to 7-week low — Platts CTI
  • Somkhele FY anthracite output rises above 1Mt mark — Mining Weekly
  • Sasol repositions itself for gas-based future — Mining Weekly
  • Sasol expects R4bn in restructuring savings, sans ‘forced’ job cuts
    — Mining Weekly
  • Global coal glut prompts coal miners to chant ‘cut, cut, cut’ — Mining Weekly
  • Physical Atlantic thermal markets diverge as Richards Bay eases lower
    — Platts CTI
  • CIF Turkey thermal coal price drops as market waits for tender results
    — Platts CTI
  • CIF ARA swaps remain rangebound amid lack of upward drivers — Platts CTI
  • Indian thermal coal buyers scout for cheaper Indonesian coal deals
    — Platts CTI
  • FOB Richards Bay 6,000 NAR edges lower — Platts CTI
  • Regional report – Japan: into the breach — World Coal
  • Profit margins shrink as Richards Bay prices near average export costs
    — Platts CTI
  • FOB Richards Bay 6,000 NAR gains 60 cents on-day — Platts CTI
  • The burning question of coal — Financial Review
  • FOB Richards Bay stable at $67.10/t — Platts CTI
  • Aussie mining tax scrapped by government — Mining News
  • Steel Mont to supply 1Mt of SA coal to Ukraine — Platts CTI
  • Physical implied freight widens — Platts CTI
  • Lonmin to go up for sale — Mining Review
  • No interest in Anglo American assets — Mining Review
  • South Africa no longer “an attractive investment destination” — Mining Review
  • Glencore warns of SA divestment if target returns aren’t met — Mining Review
  • Richards Bay FOB price dip sparks talk of opening markets — Platts CTI
  • Coal turns a corner — Andrew Peaple
  • Richards Bay rebounds from low as Ukraine reveals S African coal purchase
    — Platts CTI
  • Ukraine to import South African coal as Russia targets sector — Platts CTI
  • Thermal coal price outlook cloudy as issues plague Asian market — Platts CTI

News Archive

August 2014
  • India facing acute shortage of coal — World Coal
  • Indonesia to cap coal production in 2015 — World Coal
  • Germany needs coal power — World Coal
  • India facing acute shortage of coal — World Coal
  • Transnet, Eskom coal boost for black-controlled Exxaro — Mining Weekly
  • Bisichi H1 earnings fall as S Africa operations struggle — Mining Weekly
  • Draft scoping report for Delmas Coal extension, upgrades to be published for public comment — Mining Weekly
  • A week in coal: 22 August 2014 — World Coal
  • Turkish demand for South African thermal coal rises — Platts CTI
  • Atlantic thermal spot prices diverge, Richards Bay 6 000 at new record low
    — Platts CTI
  • Nearby Richards Bay swaps pressured by weak physical, higher freight
    — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay 6,000 stabilises — Platts CTI
  • Europe Struggles to Pay Its Energy Bill — Cornerstone
  • Indian buyers opting for small quantities of SA 5 500 NAR — Platts CTI
  • Near $2 fall in Richards Bay 6 000 spot as shippers gravitate to Atlantic
    — Platts CTI
  • Indian interest in S African coal up as Australian prices rise — Platts CTI
  • Back in the Black: Coal Makes Comeback — Bentek Market Alert
  • Act on Climate Change, but Tackle Other Global Problems, Too
    — Scientific American
  • BHP Eyes Split From Billiton Assets in Mine Spinoff Plan — Bloomberg News
  • South Africa's coal clean-up digs deep with gasification — Reuters
  • Major SA assets fail to make cut in BHP Billiton portfolio remake
    — Mining Weekly
  • Richards Bay spot slips — Platts CTI
  • Glencore H1 coal output up 5% at 71.2 million mt — Platts CTI
  • South African to possibly replace Ukrainian coal — Platts CTI
  • Beijing steps up efforts to curb pollution — World Coal
  • South African coal — Platts CTI
  • Regional report – Japan: into the breach — World Coal
  • Stable Richards Bay FOB spot — Platts CTI
  • The energy landscape today — IEA Southeast Asia Energy Report
  • Junior raises cash for Botswana coal, power project — Mining Weekly
  • Transnet Freight Rail signals bold plans for growth — Mining Weekly
  • South Africa's RBCT exported 5.4Mt of coal in July — Reuters
  • Indian buyers seek SA 5 500 NAR amid tight supply — Platts CTI
  • European traders mull S African thermal coal trades as risk appetite rises
    — Platts CTI
  • RBCT July coal exports climb 10% on month to 5.42Mt — Platts CTI
  • S African 5,500 NAR thermal coal supply tight for Indian buyers — Platts CTI
  • Lower Australian prices into India pressure S African 5 500 NAR coal
    — Platts CTI
July 2014
  • Global picture for coal offers reason to pause — Newcastle Herald
  • Australia okays huge India-backed mine — Khaleej Times
  • Richards Bay FOB spot prices dip amid limited Indian demand — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay spot falls over $1 — Platts CTI
  • Not in my backyard: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad — Observer-Reporter
  • Ghana: The Achievements of the Energy Minister - and the
    "Failed Desperation" of Franklin Cudjoe — The Chronicle
  • Mining confidence plumbs the depths — The Australian
  • Richards Bay FOB spot stable — Platts CTI
  • Miners dig in to meet surging coal demand — The Courier-Mail
  • Richards Bay FOB spot ticks up — Platts CTI
  • Exxaro acquires Total Coal South Africa Proprietary Limited — Exxaro
  • SA Mining: What an Iraqi in Norway can teach us all — Daily Maverick
  • Carbon reduction threat to King Coal — The Australian
  • Miners dig in to meet surging coal demand — The Courier-Mail
  • Regional update – Botswana: railways and CBM — World Coal
  • Southern Africa’s largest spreader commissioned at Grootegeluk expansion project — Mining Weekly
  • Coal transportation infrastructure in South Africa — World Coal
  • South African coal priced out of market — Platts CTI
  • EURO COAL-Up on concerns about Colombian supply — Reuters Africa
  • Coal Industry Languishes, but All Is Not Lost - Zacks Analyst Interviews
  • South African arbitrage question — Platts CTI
  • Oversupply of thermal coal could close mines — Reuters
  • South African bids creep up — Platts CTI
  • Coal stocks run dangerously low at India power stations
    — The Straits Times Asia
  • Richards Bay 6,000 NAR rallies — Platts CTI
  • The tiger roars as the dragon sleeps — World Coal
  • Anglo’s South African mines up output, platinum sales ‘normal’ despite strike
    — Mining Weekly
  • Richards Bay FOB prices resume downtrend — Platts CTI
  • Transnet initiates Waterberg rail studies — Mining Weekly
  • Australia Becomes First Developed Nation to Repeal Carbon Tax
    — The Wall Street Journal
  • Growing renewable generation pushes out coal in the EU — World Coal
  • Richards Bay FOB trades below $70/t for first time in over 4 years — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay FOB bear-run enters third day to hit sub-$70/t record low
    — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay prices slip to new lows on Australian competition pressure
    — Platts CTI
  • Indian power firm eyes coal acquisitions in S Africa, Indonesia — Mining Weekly
  • Asia: steam coal prices yet to reach bottom
  • Germany: the power glutton — World Coal
  • Can we really do without coal? — Reuters
  • FOB Richards Bay drops to fresh record low on bearish Asian market
    — Platts CTI
  • UK unions join forces in struggle to save coal mines and power plants
    — World Coal
  • Transnet coal railings up 61% — Platts CTI
  • RBCT June coal exports slip 11.9% on-month to 4.9 million mt — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay FOB market tradeless — Platts CTI
  • S Africa thermal exports to India up 3% to 3.12 million mt in May: Customs
    — Platts CTI
June 2014
  • EURO COAL-Prices edge lower on healthy supply, weak demand
    — Reuters Africa
  • EURO COAL-Prices fall to new five-year low below $70/tonne — Reuters Africa
  • FOB Richards Bay stable on-day — Platts CTI
  • China searches for an energy revolution — NEWZEA
  • Coal supply to thermal power plants dwindles — The Economic Times
  • Coal Sector Shooting Higher — ZING
  • FOB Richards Bay coal jumps 50 cents on firm spot trade — Platts CTI
  • EURO COAL-Prices fall further on weak demand, oversupply — Reuters Africa
  • Richards Bay FOB drops to 12-day low — Platts CTI
  • Blending of coals to meet power station requirements — BrightTALK
  • Disinvestment critique is black gold — Thomson Reuters Eikon
  • Coal still has a big future — Thomson Reuters Eikon
  • Coal reserves in a carbon constrained future IEA — Clean Coal Centre
  • Richards Bay FOB spot firms further — Platts CTI
  • Big Data and the coal industry — World Coal
  • Coal mines losing money: Anglo — Thomson Reuters Eikon
  • Richards Bay FOB spot market ticks up — Platts CTI
  • Moz to start exporting coal through Nacala by December — Mining Weekly
  • Richards Bay FOB spot gains — Platts CTI
  • A fresh start: coal and power in India — World Coal
  • Indonesia's Coal Industry in 2014 - A Snapshot — Salva Report
  • Is China’s Coal Logistics Plan a game change for coal imports? — Salva Report
  • International coal markets – it’s not all doom and gloom — Salva Report
  • Constrained SA mining sector forcing contractors to seek African operations
    — Mining Weekly
  • FOB Richards Bay spot drops to 10-week low as traders question demand
    — Platts CTI
  • The coal industry and resource nationalism in South Africa — World Coal
  • The German Coal Conundrum: The status of coal power in Germany's energy transition — The Heinrich Böll Stiftung
  • Smoke screens — WASHPO
  • Sasol Mining’s coal projects on track for 2015 completion — Mining Weekly
  • Forbes widens net loss, coal revenue up 5.6% — Mining Weekly
  • Saleable coal production in Mozambique to increase by 67% — Mining Weekly
  • Railway limitations still a serious problem for Mozambique’s coal sector
    — Mining Weekly
  • Development of black junior coal sector now a matter of urgency as Eskom approaches ‘supply cliff’ — Mining Weekly
  • South African Richards Bay Coal Terminal exports 5.58Mt in May — Platts CTI
  • Gas boom dulls carbon rule's effect — LA Times
  • EURO COAL-Prices drop on low summer demand, Ukraine gas compromise
    — Reuters Africa
  • Is Coal Set for a Comeback? — Rupert Hargreaves
May 2014
  • Federal EPA's pollution rules may oust coal — Tribune-Review
  • FOB Richards Bay falls 15 cents on-day — Platts CTI
  • Coal Watch — Platts CTI
  • Outlook for coal remains weak - Yancoal — Mining Weekly
  • Port, Botswana–Moz rail feasibility study set to start this year — Mining Weekly
  • Climate change warnings may be invalid — AFP via I-Net Bridge
  • What to watch in 2014: Policy developments that will shape the coal industry
    — Cornerstone
  • Global thermal import demand growth to slow to 2% a year until 2018: GS
    — Platts CTI
  • Quiet Richards Bay spot gains 80 cents — Platts CTI
  • Concerns about MPRDA Amendment Bill linger as industry awaits President’s verdict — Mining Weekly
  • Botswana ropes in Dutch firm as it seeks to craft coal-bed methane gas development strategy — Mining Weekly
  • Mozambique benefiting from mining taxes but needs to improve infrastructure — Mining Weekly
  • A quarter of Queensland coal produced in the red - QRC — Mining Weekly
  • 1 980 workers to be ‘affected’ by Exxaro’s 2015 restructuring plan
    — Mining Weekly
  • Fossil-free isn't folly free — The Boston Globe
  • FOB Richards Bay spot climbs 35 cents on-day — Platts CTI
  • European physical spot edges lower; S African market firms further — Platts CTI
  • Environmental impacts of KiPower 600 MW plant outlined — Engineering News
  • Turkish coal mine disaster cranks up pressure on miners, utilities — Reuters
  • African Energy waits for higher coal prices or lower freight costs at Mmamabula — Mining Weekly
  • China’s coal output, consumption almost as much as world combined
    — Mining Weekly
  • Richards Bay catches up after outage — Business Day
  • AEO2014: coal prices and productivity — World Coal
  • Coal rules will devastate, say biz groups — The Hill
  • South Africa's RBCT exported 5.5Mt of coal in April — Reuters
  • The deadliest environmental threat (it’s not global warming) — Bjørn Lomborg
  • Richards Bay spot coal not competitive — Platts CTI
  • How green policies hurt the poor — Bjørn Lomborg
  • S Africa’s stuttering economy adds to gloom in run-up to election
    — Financial Times
  • Richards Bay FOB spot remains stable — Platts CTI
  • South Africa’s Richards Bay coal exports fall — World Coal
  • Glencore Xstrata Q1 coal output up 4% on-year to 34.1Mt — Platts CTI
  • South Africa’s Richards Bay April coal exports fall 13% on-year — Platts CTI
  • FOB Richards Bay 6 000 NAR at $77/mt — Platts CTI
  • Alpha Natural, Walter Energy cut coal output to boost prices — Reuters
  • Rio Tinto warns of job cuts at Queensland coal mine — Mining Weekly
  • FOB Richards Bay 6 000 NAR drops to near three-week lows — Platts CTI
  • Why the Chinese are Bullish on Coal – and You Should Be, Too
    — Energy and Capital
April 2014
  • Solar Power Is Booming, But Will Never Replace Coal. Here's Why. — Forbes
  • Solobay: Coal Still Vital Source of Energy and Jobs —
  • Pennsylvania coal group wants government to collaborate on 'clean coal' technology — SNL
  • Indian mining, steel heavyweight opens up shop in SA — Engineering News
  • The Atlantic Basin thermal coal markets – The present and the future
    — Informa Australia
  • Forbes Coal extends Ikwezi property acquisition closing date — Mining Weekly
  • Firestone narrows efforts to optimise Waterberg project — Mining Weekly
  • CoAL progresses turnaround as last noncore asset sale advances
    — Mining Weekly
  • Walter Energy to idle Canadian coal operations — World Coal
  • FOB Richards Bay 6 000 NAR price falls 35 cents on-day — Platts CTI
  • Mick Davis wants BHP’s coal division to be cornerstone of his new
    mining empire —
  • Former Xstrata chief seeks to buy BHP thermal coal unit - report — Reuters
  • FOB Richards Bay spot unchanged — Platts CTI
  • Coal-based growth to accelerate; reiterate Buy — UBS
  • Richards Bay 6,000 NAR prompt market slips although tightness persists
    — Platts CTI
  • World Bank gives Mozambique tips on avoiding a ‘painful bust’ as minerals boom beckons — Mining Weekly
  • Arch Coal widens Q1 loss as weak coal prices weigh, lowers guidance
    — Mining Weekly
  • Peabody Energy widens Q1 loss as weak coal prices persist — Mining Weekly
  • Large mining projects under pressure as capital strategies are reviewed
    — Mining Weekly
  • No finality on Eskom ‘support’, but DPE confirms immediate R25bn shortfall
    — Engineering News
  • The fuel of the future, unfortunately — The Economist
  • R17.5m Anglo project to improve, accelerate mine rehabilitation
    — Mining Weekly
  • Spot Richards Bay FOB rises — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay FOB spot steady amid tightness — Platts CTI
  • El Niño could start as early as July — Financial Times
  • Keaton Energy almost doubles coal output
  • BHP Billiton hikes iron-ore, met coal production forecasts — Mining Weekly
  • Energizer completes Madagascar graphite project consolidation
    — Mining Weekly
  • Walter Energy to idle Canadian operations — Mining Weekly
  • Tulear court grants Lemur tenure over Imaloto permit 4578 — Mining Weekly
  • Martins opens way for coal, co-generation IPPs, extends renewables allocation
    — Mining Weekly
  • Gas emerges as potential aid for Zimbabwe energy crisis — Mining Weekly
  • Development of UCG industry gains momentum as government reveals
    policy stance — Mining Weekly
  • FOB Richards Bay 6 000 price drops 80 cents on-day — Platts CTI
  • Coal gasification: The clean energy of the future? — BBC
  • Mining in sub-Saharan Africa — World Coal
  • Huge export potential for coal from subcontinent — Mining
  • Germany sets a new tone on energy policy — Financial Times
  • Westminster’s £10m loan delays coal mine closure — Financial Times
  • Eskom headed for distress, bailout — Engineering News
  • Martins set to make IPP procurement announcements on Monday
    — Engineering News
  • What future for UK coal? — World Coal
  • Bankruptcy filing unlikely to impact coal market — World Coal
  • Initiatives underway to improve greenfield exploration in SA — Mining Weekly
  • Attack halts coal trains in central Mozambique — Mining Weekly
  • Namibian Resources raises £246 400 of new capital — Mining Weekly
  • Richards Bay FOB spot market climbs to over-three-week high
  • First coal to Eskom from Universal’s Kangala mine — Mining
  • MPs and unions join battle to save two of UK’s last coal mines
    — Financial Times
  • Richards Bay March coal exports hit 5-month high at 6.9Mt — Platts CTI
  • BHP Billiton bullish on coal demand — Mining Weekly
  • Market uncertainty flagged as the major worry for mining juniors in 2014
    — Mining Weekly
  • FOB Richards Bay stable despite Indian demand — Platts CTI
March 2014
  • Huge coal deposits discovered in North Sea — World Coal
  • Scientists clash over UN climate report — Financial Times
  • After shale gas, now for tight oil — Financial Times
  • Strong global, domestic energy needs guarantee long-term demand for SA coal
    — Mining Weekly
  • Beacon Hill able to fund coal wash plant expansion — World Coal
  • Richards Bay FOB thermal coal prices firm on renewed Indian buying
  • CIF ARA spot prices rise $1 on further Drummond loading delay — Platts CTI
  • High-calorific steam coal segment stabilizes in Atlantic region
  • South Africa's Grootegeluk returns normal operation — Metal Expert
  • RBCT ready to boost junior coal exports in partnership with Transnet
    — Mining Weekly
  • Spot FOB Richards Bay swaps at lowest since 2009
  • Germany's Energy Policy Is Failing the Poor, While Being a Poor Way to Help the Climate — Bjorn Lomborg
  • Supplying Eskom is coal industry’s greatest challenge, says professional services firm — Mining Weekly
  • Agreement opens way for 300 MW Moz coal-fired power project
    — Engineering News
  • No current need for separate junior coal terminal – TNPA — Engineering News
  • SA’s Forbes Coal, Riversdale Mining reach long-awaited agreement
    — Platts CTI
  • Coal, gas or nuclear? Power-hungry South Africa must decide now — Reuters
  • KZN coal hub initiative to unlock opportunities across the mineral’s value chain
    — Mining Weekly
  • GlencoreXstrata keen to boost position in coal — Mining Weekly
  • Contested mining legislation approved by Parliament — Mining Weekly
  • S&P rates Exxaro zaA-/zaA-2, SA remains risk — Mining Weekly
  • Belfast colliery feasibility study is on track — Mining
  • SA’s coal resources become expensive to mine — Mining
  • Richards Bay rally gathers pace — Platts CTI
  • CoAL keeps focus on turnaround, Makhado hopes remain high
    — Mining Weekly
  • Glencore acquiring BHP Billiton’s Optimum coal rights approved
    — Mining Weekly
  • Tesla's new $5bn ‘giga-factory’ could spur 37% graphite market growth
    — Mining Weekly
  • Linc Energy wins Polish coal exploration license — World Coal
  • Ukraine crisis to be main coal market driver — World Coal
February 2014
  • Mining in sub-Saharan Africa — World Coal
  • Carbon tax postponed to 2016 — Engineering News
  • A lot of well-meaning people are arguing that in order to tackle global warming,
    we need to disinvest in fossil fuels — Bjorn Lomborg
January 2014
  • Global seaborne coal trade to grow in 2014 on Asian appetite for power, steel
    — SNL