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Ph.D. student debunks common misinformation about coal: 'It's one of a number of bogus arguments they use'

"The fact that something was a plant once, that isn't what makes it sustainable."

"The fact that something was a plant once, that isn’t what makes it sustainable."

Photo Credit: TikTok

A Ph.D. student on TikTok has debunked a dubious implication made by an English government official. 

The politician in question has made a claim that isn't totally uncommon in energy politics. He argued that, because coal is just organic plant matter that has been modified over millions of years, it must be sustainable in the same way that biomass is.

This English politician is not the first to make this claim, but TikTok user and Ph.D. student Rosh (@all_about_climate) breaks down the myths perpetuated by Lee Anderson, a conservative member of Parliament who recently joined the Reform Party, which has been criticized for its denial of climate science and attempts at blocking policies intended to reduce harmful pollution.

@all_about_climate Is coal sustainable? Debunking the fumbest climate denial argument yet. #coal #sustainable #climatechange #LeeAnderson #dumb #stupid #fail #debunked #factcheck #science #environment #climateaction #globalwarming #climatecrisis #education #explained #climateemergency ♬ original sound - Rosh

"The fact that something was a plant once, that isn't what makes it sustainable," says the author, explaining further the concept of sustainability. 

"If you burn the wood at the same rate that the wood grows, it's self-replenishing. Of course, it can be done unsustainably. If you burn wood faster than it can grow, that's unsustainable. You're [going to] run out of wood," he says, pointing to Anderson's admission that coal takes "hundreds of millions of years to form," which makes it unsustainable.

However, even if coal were sustainable, the fumes generated by the burning of the fuel are bad for human health. Additionally, according to ClientEarth, coal is even more dirty than petroleum products, generating nearly a third of global carbon pollution.

Moving away from coal as an energy source is essential to help cool down the Earth, helping humanity avoid the worst impacts of a warming planet, including a continued increase in extreme weather events such as drought, rising sea levels, and damage to wildlife.

Instead, experts are advocating for a transition to renewable energy. The Natural Resources Defense Council defines this as energy that comes from "natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished." This includes energy from processes involving wind, water, or the sun. Clean energy is also generally cheaper than electricity powered by dirty fuels. 

TikTok users in the comments to the video did not hold back, and one person questioned whether Anderson even believed his own statements. 

"Lee Anderson doesn't believe this, it's one of a number of bogus arguments they use," one commenter suggested. 

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