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Merchants of Climate Chaos

Eighty percent of the world's total coal reserves (estimated at 929 billion tons) are located in the United States, Russia, China, Eurasia, and Australia. Most coal-producing nations use the bulk of their stores at home, but 17 percent of the world's coal is exported, largely by sea. Marketing the raw material of global warming is big business.

The map below, based on 2008 data from the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental energy-policy adviser to developed nations, outlines that trade, measured in millions of metric tons. Australia is by far the largest exporter; the largest importer is Japan, followed by Korea and Taiwan.

In the absence of an international agreement to limit carbon dioxide—especially one that takes into account exports as well as national consumption—the coal trade will grow by 40 percent in the next 20 years, with much of the export growth coming from Australia, South America, South Africa, and Russia. The United States is projected to become the third-largest exporter of coking coal, the sort used in steel manufacturing. It will take one hell of a lot of compact fluorescent lightbulbs to balance that out. —Paul Rauber

Map by Daniel Krall; map source courtesy of the international energy agency


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