What causes climate change?
It is in what you might call the "goldilocks zone", where the conditions are just right for life as we know it.
To help keep these conditions just right, our planet is wrapped in a layer of greenhouse gases.
This layer keeps the globe warm like a blanket, shielding it from the cold universe – commonly referred to as the greenhouse effect.
While not being the most potent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver for the greenhouse effect.
And this is where we have a problem.
The cause of climate change is the unlimited burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas - releasing CO2 in the atmosphere at an ever increasing rate.
Because of this the layer of greenhouse gas gets thicker, which in turn makes the Earth warmer.
The reason we do this is to satisfy our hunger for energy. But thanks to human ingenuity there are now smarter ways to make energy.
About Carbon Dioxide
Where does the CO2 come from?
In terms of fuels, the main problem is coal. The other key reason is waste – inefficient use of energy.
And in terms of industries, the main culprit is electricity production – the power industry.
According to the International Energy Agency the power sector is responsible for 37% of all man-made Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions. It creates about 23 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – in excess of 700 tonnes a second.
In turn, this CO2 continues to heat up our planet and pose an unprecedented threat to us and the environment. Read more here on the impacts of climate change.
Generating electricity through the burning of fossil fuels, in particular carbon-heavy coal, has a greater impact on the atmosphere than any other single human activity.
Coal is the world's most widely available fossil fuel
Weaning humanity off coal will not be easy. There is an estimated 2 billion people with no access to domestic electricity, and recoverable reserves of coal exist in about 70 countries, according to the World Coal Institute, an industry lobby group (the largest are in the United States, Russia and China). It is considered a cheap form of energy.
But coal is not cheap - if you have to pay for it all
The true cost of coal cannot be found on any balance sheet, but in the lives and health of people and ecosystems. If the global power sector could be made fully accountable for the true costs of pollution and climate change, it would probably turn away from fossil fuel overnight.
Too many governments still subsidize coal production and this distorts the energy market. OECD countries support their coal industry with a whopping $30 billion USD annually.
Much cleaner renewable energies are hampered in their ability to compete with a dirty fuel that is subsidized. Politicians have the power to remove fossil-fuel subsidies or, better still, transfer them to renewable energy.
When the true cost is taken into account, renewable energy begins to look by far the best option for a healthy and sustainable future.
Why coal causes so much environmental damage
The most mature coal variety, anthracite - hard, black and lustrous - is nearly pure carbon, and has historically been regarded as useful to humans because of its high energy content. But dirty brown coal, or lignite, produces most CO2 per unit of energy.
Above all, more than a third of all global electricity is generated from coal - it is the power sector's single biggest source of energy.