In fact, the New York Times traces the scientific discussion of coal’s effect on our atmosphere all the way back to the 1850s. Today, we haven’t changed our ways that much. In 2016, the world consumed more than 5.3 billion metric tons of coal. The Earth’s atmosphere now holds an unprecedented amount of CO2 : the concentration has risen above 411 parts per million, the highest level in 800,000 years. The high concentration of pollution in the air is killing people at alarming rates, and the heat being trapped is fuelling fires and causing seas to rise . Higher temperatures could even slow down our brains if left unchecked, some research suggests. While the rate of coal production is slowing down in the US, we’re still burning tons of other Earth-warming fuels. And coal production is on the rise in other developing countries, especially in the growing economies of India and China . (Coal use is slowing down a bit in China , but it still accounts for 60 percent of the country’s energy mix, according to the Brookings Institution.) This activity is leading to devastating consequences for Earth’s ecosystems, and for anyone trying to breathe in polluted areas.
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