In Poland, carbon dioxide is the second, just after steam, greenhouse gas, ie the one that hinders the escape of thermal energy into space. It accounts for about 80% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, in opposition to the aforementioned, it is a poison. Maybe not very strong, because in small concentrations it is not poisonous, but in higher doses it is harmful to health, and in extreme cases deadly, because its action causes the formation of hypercapnia (including difficulty breathing, dyspnea).

The so-called. negative emissions, ie the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere compensates for some 10% of Polish emissions. Would it be possible to increase such compensation? Yes, e.g. through afforestation policies. As far as the percentage of afforestation is concerned, Poland is poor compared to other European countries (our forest cover was 31% for 2016, while in the same year forest cover was 33%, Spain and Portugal 37% and 35% respectively, and e.g. Belorussia up to 42%).

Despite all the advantages of afforestation, it is unfortunately only the treatment of symptoms, not counteracting the “disease”, which is the continuous introduction of new coal into the carbon cycle. I am thinking of burning fossil fuels, especially hard coal. In Poland hard coal deposits are still being exploited and the mining ethos is considered to be of particular importance. It blocks changes in the energy sector. During discussions on climate change, even in scientific environments, one can come across opinions that emission charges, guidelines for RES, are mechanisms that limit the sovereignty of nation states. Even the very phenomenon of global warming is questioned. Nothing could be more wrong, the free market will always provide us with fuel, often cheaper and of better quality than sulphated Polish coal, often extracted from uneconomical depths and in life threatening conditions. Economic analyzes show that the contribution of mines to Polish GDP is negative. Millions of zlotys are allocated annually to maintain coal mining.

According to the data of the Polish Geological Institute, Poland does not stand by coal, as it is used to say. Calculating mathematically, the resources of coal would be enough for over 800 years, however, realizing that there is no sense in extracting small amounts of coal from the depths in kilometers, the adequateness of operational resources was counted, i.e. those that accounted for the losses incurred during extraction. This sufficiency is 40-50 years, and if you use all your undeveloped resources, it is up to 100 years. Naturally, all counted assuming that the demand remains at the current level. Speaking colloquially, it’s not so rosy. And yet we should also mention the huge import of coal from abroad, including Russia, according to data from Business Insider Polska – 13.47 million tonnes. Polish mines extracted approximately 63 million tonnes in 2018.

Why do we buy more and more coal from abroad? Because it is so economically. In order to create an opencast mine in Russia, Australia or the USA, it is enough to take off a relatively thin layer of soil, introduce excavators and extracting it ready. And with us, we’re kicking a kilometer down, we’re introducing complicated equipment, and what do we have? Average productivity of 700 tons per employee, while in the worst mines in the US it is 2,500 tons. There is a difference, right?

Earlier, I mentioned the sulphate of Polish coal. In the simplest terms, it is about its pollution with many sulfur compounds. The sulphate of Polish coal in domestic sales is almost twice as much as Russian coal. Ash looks the same, almost twice as many ashes are left on Polish coal.
Unfortunately, also the geological environment does not facilitate operation. Once in Poland, they were fed at depths of 200-500 m, now some 800 to 1300 m, and the depths will continue to grow. Of course, with the depth increases the risk associated with methane explosions, the temperature increases, at a depth of 1 km is about 40 degrees C, and seismic hazards, such as rock bursts. Coal deposits in Poland are deep, steep, cut by numerous faults, which does not make the extraction easier, and naturally also raises costs, and makes it difficult or impossible to mechanize. In countries based on opencast mining, the seams are usually gently sloped, a little over 200 m underground. This arrangement of the seams affects their greater availability – you do not need to build shafts, because you can simply use the railway.

The European Union has a climate protection policy. We must take into account the fact that greenhouse gas emission allowances prices are not likely to decrease, on the contrary, they will continue to grow. Many people will ask what to do? We’ve always heated houses with coal, now what? Now we have to introduce as many renewable energy sources (RES) as possible in every possible form: photothermal and photovoltaic panels, wind power plants with vertical axes, biogas plants at sewage treatment plants, municipal waste landfills or large food plants. Often it is enough to better insulate your home, replace windows, make a roof well, with insulation … .. And of course, nuclear power plants or cogeneration plants. We really have something to choose from. Let us not believe in superstition, only in science.


Text author:
Michał Paweł Bijata is a student at the University of Warsaw, Inter-faculty Studies in Environmental Protection at the University Center for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development.

Every year, over 32 billion tons of CO2, the most important greenhouse gas, is sent to the atmosphere. Currently, the concentration of this gas in the air is about 400 ppm. Before the outbreak of the industrial revolution (around 1870) it was <280 ppm. High concentration of CO2 in the air (the highest since 800,000 years)! translates into the increasing temperature of the Earth (in the last century it increased by 0.85 oC) and climate change. The temperature rise depends on the total cumulative emissions – that is, how much CO2 we emit. 67% of the world’s electricity comes from the combustion of fossil fuels responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases. Among them, the largest CO2 emissions per unit of produced energy causes combustion of coal (43%), oil (33%), gas (18%), and cement production (5.3%).

Researchers from the US National Institute of Oxygenates and Atmosphere (NOAA), the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) and the Innovative Research Program (IRP) have revised previous calculations stating that the increase in average air temperature in our planet in recent years it was faster than in the second half of the 20th century. In the years 2000-2014 the average global temperature increase was 0.116st. C for a decade, and in the years 1950-1999 it amounted to 0.113st. C. Researchers have thus improved the Fifth Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued in stages between September 2013 and November 2014, which states that in the years 1998-2012 the temperature grew globally slower than in the years 1951-2012. According to the second chapter of the IPCC report in 2002-11, the average temperature in Europe was 1.3 degrees C above the average of 1850-99. Since the mid-twentieth century, the number of heat waves has been increasing, and the waves of cold are becoming rarer.

Statistics show that global CO2 emissions in 2012 reached 35.6 billion tons, which means a 2.6 percent increase compared to 2011 and 58% compared to the 1990s! In every second 1.1 million kg of CO2 goes into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases reached a record level in 2013 when the CO2 concentration in the air amounted to 96.0 parts per million (p.p.m), by 2.9 pp more than in 2012.The key finding of the Climate Summit in Paris from December 2015 is contained in Art.2, maintaining the global average temperature increase below 2 ° C above the pre-industrial level and continuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. At the climate summit in 2014, the EU set itself the objective of reducing emissions by 40% compared to 1990. The EU countries also agreed that after the COP21 conference in Paris they will review the target and may modify it depending on the findings of the climate summit. Before the 2015 conference, 187 countries submitted voluntary emission reduction commitments, referred to as INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). They include goals to be implemented in the period 2020-2030. Their implementation would allow limiting the insulation to 2.7 – 3.5 ° C by the end of the century and much more later.

The implementation of the objective of stopping the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface below 2 ° C, and especially 1.5 ° C will be very difficult. Warming has already exceeded 1C, and the emission reductions necessary to achieve the goal of limiting the temperature rise are enormous. Achieving the objective of limiting the insulation to 2st. C means the need to decrease net emissions to zero around 2050, and the limitations of insulation to 1.5 deg. C is a drop in net emissions to zero by 2030. The Paris Agreement, although definitely insufficient, is a milestone on the way to solving the climate crisis . Above all, a long-term goal and a shared vision of the transformation of the economy and the way in which we obtain and use energy have been set. This is a clear signal for markets: investment in fossil fuels, especially coal and oil sands is a thing of the past, and the future is in clean energy sources and other elements of the new energy system: smart grids, electricity and heat stores, electrification of transport, zero- and plus-energy homes, etc.

The IPCC report for the next few years will become the scientific basis for political decisions on dealing with global warming. According to various scenarios, depending on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, by the end of the century the average long-term temperature of the Earth will increase by 0.3-4.8 degrees Celsius compared to the average of the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. The authors of the document emphasize that greenhouse gas emission reductions they can be achieved by strongly turning to renewable energy sources and reducing energy production from coal and oil.