When it comes to the future, the US coal industry is not likely to be the last to be hit.
After decades of decline, coal production has fallen by nearly half, to about 3.3 million metric tons in 2014.
It was a drop of nearly 1 million metric ton from 2014, when the industry was already on its way to being completely out of business.
In 2014, about one-third of the US population lived in rural areas that had less than 5% of the nation’s total coal reserves.
“If we want to protect our grandchildren, we have to take a long, hard look at our future,” said John J. Murphy, chairman of the Association of American Geophysical Union, in a conference call with reporters earlier this year.
Murphy and other scientists have called on Congress to take action to reverse that decline.
Last year, Murphy and more than 30 others urged the Obama administration to pass legislation that would create a cap on federal coal exports, a measure that has been proposed by Murphy and others for decades.
Murphy called the legislation a “historic first step” to rein in the industry.
The administration has also recently taken several actions that could further limit coal production.
Last month, the Interior Department issued a permit to the largest coal mine in the United States, Clinch River Mine in Wyoming, to mine more than 7 million tons of coal a year for at least 20 years.
Murphy said that the mine is in the process of obtaining a permit from the State Department for a project that would bring the mine’s annual coal output to about 5.5 million tons, about a quarter of the coal produced in the state.
And last month, a coal mine near the city of Barrow, Alaska, was ordered to cease production and restart production at the end of March.
“The industry needs to be very cautious and cautious in this environment,” Murphy said.
He pointed out that coal production is a key component of the national economy and a critical energy source for about one third of the U.S. economy.
“It is a source of jobs, it’s a source, it has a lot of value,” Murphy added.
Murphy also pointed out to reporters that the US already exported about $2 trillion worth of coal last year, with most of that being exported to Asia and Europe.
“That’s a lot less than what we exported last year,” Murphy noted.
Murphy added that if Congress did not act, the coal industry could become a “burden” on the federal budget.
“A lot of the industry has been in decline for the last 50 years, and we’re going to have to deal with it,” Murphy continued.
The U.N. panel also released a report last week that outlined a number of measures that can be taken to prevent future coal mining disasters.
The report found that, “A large proportion of the world’s coal is produced in China and India, two of the largest sources of global coal consumption.”
The report called on countries like China and Japan to restrict imports of coal, restrict their use of coal and impose additional environmental and health restrictions on coal miners.
“There is a clear need for action to limit coal mining,” the report said.
Murphy believes that Congress could help mitigate the threat of future coal disasters.
“In the meantime, it is imperative that Congress act on these critical issues,” Murphy concluded.