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Energy & Science

Climate Impact From China’s Coal Push Visible From Space

A powerful cloud of methane was caught by satellite for the first time in a remote corner of Inner Mongolia, where China is boosting production of the dirtiest fossil fuel

China’s increased reliance on coal to combat an energy shortage was never going to bode well for its ambitions to cut planet-warming emissions. Now, thanks to new analysis of satellite data, the effects of that climate choice could already be evident from space. 

A plume of methane, which traps over 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere, was detected by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite near a remote coal mine in Inner Mongolia on March 1. The Sentinel-5P had never before spotted the powerful greenhouse gas in that location, suggesting new or expanded activity.