The Canberra Times/AFP has the alarming news:

China is aiming to increase its coal production by about 30 per cent by 2015 to meet its energy needs, the Government has announced, in a move likely to fuel concerns over global warming.

(Note to Canberra Times: Some statements are so obvious you can skip the journalistic hedging.)

Land and Resources Ministry chief planner Hu Cunzhi said the Government planned to increase annual output to more than 3.3 billion tonnes by 2015.

That is up from the 2.54 billion tonnes produced in 2007, according to the ministry.

In short, from 2007 to 2015, China will increase its coal production by an amount equal to two-thirds of the entire coal consumption of the United States — an amount that surpasses all of the coal consumed today in Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South America.

Such is the legacy of eight years of the Bush administration blocking all national and international action on climate change, and indeed actively working to undermine international negotiations by creating a parallel do-nothing track for countries like China. As Chinese officials have told me, we gave them the cover to accelerate emissions growth.

Some might claim a different president would never have been able to get China on a different path. But if Al Gore had been elected picked by the Supreme Court in 2000, I assert that China would not be planning for its 2015 coal production to be triple that of current U.S. coal production.

Changing China’s rapacious coal plans will arguably be Obama’s single greatest challenge in terms of preserving a livable climate and thus the health and well-being of future generations and thus any chance at a positive legacy for his presidency.

The story continues:

Annual production of natural gas would more than double to 160 billion cubic metres by 2015, while that of crude oil would increase by 7 per cent to more than 200billion tonnes, Mr Hu said.

The Government would set up reserves of oil and coal as part of its efforts to ensure national energy security, Mr Hu said at a news conference.

China began building four strategic oil reserve facilities on its east coast this decade, and two of these are now in operation.

The country’s energy consumption expanded by an average annual rate of 5.4 per cent between 1979 and 2007, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday, which fuelled average annual economic growth of 9.8 per cent.

China depends on coal for about 70 per cent of its energy.

Its thundering growth has meant the country has become one of the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, alongside the United States.

China said coal, the cheapest and most plentiful source of fuel in the country, would remain its main energy source, despite the impact global warming had already had on the country.

China has repeatedly defended its use of coal, pointing to its efforts to develop renewable energies while blaming industrialised countries for the bulk of the greenhouse gases that are already doing the damage. It also emphasises the per capita emissions of greenhouse gases of China, the world’s most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, are far lower than those of the US and other developed nations.

That Chinese argument, I think, can now be officially labeled the insanity defense. Yes, the industrialized countries must sharply reduce their emissions — but absent a reversal of this Chinese coal policy, catastrophic climate impacts are inevitable.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.