"Nothing else": Why is it so difficult for the world to give up coal?

Raju pedals every day on his bike, bringing the world closer to climate disaster.

"Nothing else": Why is it so difficult for the world to give up coal?

He straps half a dozen coal sacks from the mines to his bike's reinforced metal frame every day. It can weigh up to 200 kgs or 440 lbs. To avoid heat and police, he drives 16 km (10 miles) to transport the coal to traders who pay him $2.

Many others are doing the same.

Raju has lived this way since he arrived at Dhanbad in eastern India in 2016. Since then, the annual floods have decimated traditional farming jobs in his region. He has no other resources than coal.

This is the United Nations climate conference in Scotland (known as COP26) up against.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, it is vital that people stop burning coal. It is the single largest source of greenhouse gasses. This includes the devastating flooding in India. People still depend on coal. It is the largest source of electric power in the world and many people, including Raju, rely on it for their very existence.

Raju stated, "The poor have nothing but sadness... but so many people have been saved by coal."

Alok Sharma, the president-designate for the United Kingdom, stated in May that he hoped that the conference would be a moment when coal is "in the future where it belongs."

This may be possible in some countries, but it is not for all.

They believe they should be allowed to have the same "carbon space" as other developed countries. This is by burning cheaper fuels such as coal. It is used in industrial processes like steelmaking and electric power generation. The average American uses 12x more electricity than an Indian. India has more than 27 million inhabitants without electricity.

As India's economy expands, so does India's power demand. This will lead to a faster growth rate than any other country in the world in the next 20 years.

Raju and others will not be able to meet this demand. Instead, Coal India, the largest miner in the world, plans to grow its production to more than 1 billion tons per year by 2024.

D.D. D.D. They were not even possible in India's coal belt. "Coal has been around for over 100 years. He said that workers believe coal will continue to do this for the next 100 years.

Both locally and globally, the consequences of climate change will be felt. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world will experience more extreme heat waves and erratic precipitation unless it drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

A 2021 Indian government study concluded that Jharkhand, the poorest state in India and home to the nation's largest coal reserves, is also the most susceptible state to climate change.

There are approximately 300,000 people who work directly in government-owned coal mines and earn fixed salaries and other benefits. Nearly 4 million Indians live in direct or indirect relationships to coal, according to Sandeep Pai, who is a Washington-based researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

India's coal belt is home to many industries that require the fuel, such as steel and brick manufacturing. Indian railways are the country's largest employers. They earn half of their income by transporting coal. This allows them to subsidise passenger travel.

Pai stated that coal is an ecosystem.

People like Naresh Chauhan (50) and Rina Devi (45), have felt more dependent on coal because of India's economic slowdown.

They have lived together in Dhanbad's Jharia coalfield for their entire lives. Some of the fires have burned for decades and have left the ground charred and spongey. The surface around their hut was prone to smoke from cracks. It is not uncommon for fatal sinkholes to occur.

They sell four baskets of scavenged co to traders for $3 per day.

People who have lived in coal mines for generations are unlikely to own land that they can farm or go anywhere else. Naresh hopes his son will learn to drive, so that he can at least get away. Even that might not be enough. The city's taxi drivers have less work. Wedding parties that used to reserve cars for guests have been reduced in number. There are fewer tourists visiting the city now than ever before.

"There's only coal, fire, and stone. There is nothing else.

This could make it even more difficult for Dhanbad residents as the world finally abandons coal. Pai claims that this is already happening, as renewable energy becomes cheaper and more profitable.

He said that India and other countries in coal-dependent areas must diversify their economies, retrain workers and protect workers' livelihoods. This is to both help accelerate the transition away coal and offer new opportunities.

Murti Devi is just one example of many others. After the mine she worked at closed four years back, the 32-year-old mother of four lost her job. The coal company promised a resettlement plan, but nothing came of it so she turned to scavenging coal. She'll make a penny on good days. She relies on her neighbors for help on other days.

"If there's coal, we live." She said, "If there's no coal, we don't have to live."