Fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) have, and continue to, play a dominant role in global energy systems. But they also come with several negative impacts.
When burned they produce CO2 (carbon dioxide) and are the largest driver of global climate change. They are also a major contributor to local air pollution, which is presumed to be linked to millions of premature deaths each year, data from Our World in Data shows.
In 2019, around 84 per cent of global primary energy came from coal, oil and gas.
• Coal has been a critical energy sources, and mainstay in global energy production for centuries.
It is still a dominant source of energy across the world today, especially within our electricity mix.
But coal is the world’s dirtiest fuel – it not only emits the most carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy, it has severe impacts on health through air pollution.
Many countries are, therefore, committing to phasing coal power out of their electricity mix.
• Oil is the world’s largest energy source today. It is the dominant source of energy for the transport sector in particular.
• Natural gas has, for decades, lagged behind coal and oil as an energy source. But its consumption is growing rapidly, often as a replacement for coal in the energy mix.
Gas is now the second largest source of electricity production globally. It is now the second largest source of electricity production globally.
As low-carbon sources of energy – nuclear and renewables – become readily available, the world needs to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels.
Moving away from coal energy is important for climate change as well as human health.