IPCC Findings on Coal

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Global Warming of 1.5°C, a special report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 8, 2018, calls for deep cuts in coal-fired power generation.[1] The "Summary for Policy Makers" outlined four illustrative model pathways, P1, P2, P3, and P4, as follows:

  • P1: A scenario in which social, business, and technological innovations result in lower energy demand up to 2050 while living standards rise, especially in the global South. A down-sized energy system enables rapid decarbonisation of energy supply. Afforestation is the only CDR option considered; neither fossil fuels with CCS nor BECCS are used.
  • P2: A scenario with a broad focus on sustainability including energy intensity, human development, economic convergence and international cooperation, as well as shifts towards sustainable and healthy consumption patterns, low-carbon technology innovation, and well-managed land systems with limited societal acceptability for BECCS
  • P3: A middle-of-the-road scenario in which societal as well as technological development follows historical patterns. Emissions reductions are mainly achieved by changing the way in which energy and products are produced, and to a lesser degree by reductions in demand.
  • P4: A resource and energy-intensive scenario in which economic growth and globalization lead to widespread adoption of greenhouse-gas intensive lifestyles, including high demand for transportation fuels and livestock products. Emissions reductions are mainly achieved through technological means, making strong use of CDR through the deployment of BECCS.

Scenarios P1, P2, and P3 have no or or limited (less than 0.1°C) overshoot of 1.5°C warming.

The reductions in coal generation by 2030 are as follows:

  • P1 - 78% by 2030, 97% by 2050
  • P2 - 61% by 2030, 77% by 2050
  • P3 - 75% by 2030, 73% by 2050
  • P4 - 59% by 2030, 97% by 2050

Overall, for the no or limited overshoot scenarios (P1, P2, and P3), the "interquartile range" is 59% to 78% reduction in 2030, and 74% to 95% reduction in 2050. Interquartile range is the middle half of a normal distribution, from 25% to 75% probability.

In addition to the Summary for Policy Makers, the IPCC released Table 2.7, "Global electricity generation of 1.5°C pathways from the scenarios database (Annex 2.A.3)". The table provides values for the median, maximum, and minimum values across the full range of available 1.5°C pathways. For coal, the range is as follows:

  • 2020 - median: 32.37 exajoules (EJ) of electricity generation from coal, with 46.20 at the high end and 14.40 at the low end.
  • 2030 - median: 10.41 EJ of electricity generation from coal, with 43.12 at the high end and 0 at the low end.
  • 2050 - median 1.29 EJ of electricity generation from coal, with 46.72.12 at the high end and 0 at the low end.


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  1. "Global Warming of 1.5°C," Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, October 2018