Why the fastest warming place on earth can’t quit coal

Sander Sarheim, a coal miner from Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, poses in this still from a video

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Svalbard is one of the fastest warming places on earth. The archipelago, located about halfway between the North Pole and continental Norway, is warming many times faster than the rest of the world, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

And yet Svalbard is home to the world’s northernmost coal mine and a coal-fired power plant that supplies electricity to the 2,500 residents who live here year-round. Moving away from coal in Svalbard has been a difficult and drawn-out process that involves economic, energy security and geopolitical concerns.

We packed our warmest clothes and travelled to Svalbard to find out why it’s so hard to quit coal. If a rich Arctic community on the frontlines of climate change can’t manage, what does that say about our global dependence on this cheap, reliable and dirty resource? Can we all ever kick the coal habit?

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