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Please explain

Please explain – coal can take 5.5 years off your life in China and cost $500 billion per year in the US in health costs but it is good for Australia?

By Dr Anthony Horton

Recent pronouncements by the Abbott Government that coal is good for Australia are increasingly coming under scrutiny, and if recently published findings are anything to go by, this scrutiny should continue. According to the International Edition of the Green Innovation Index, Australia had the highest coal consumption per capita on Earth, and was the 5th highest producer of coal. In terms of per capita energy use, Australia was ranked 43rd in the world, just above Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and 45th in the world for per capita electricity use. The report also noted the repeal of the Carbon Tax in 2012 by the Senate despite being one of the world’s highest greenhouse gas emitters and having one of the highest emissions per capita in the developed world.

As I touched on in my article “Spotlight on climate change and health”, recent research has also shed light on both the direct and indirect costs of the link climate and health at the present time and not at some time in the future. A joint Chinese-United States Study has found that the air pollution created by the use of coal use has reduced average life expectancy by 5.5 years. As we all know with the term average- there must be a percentage of people whose life expectancy is reduced by more than that, which I’m sure most people would agree is a serious issue.

The research, which was a collaboration between Peking and Tsinghua Universities in Beijing and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) looked at the impact of what was virtually an arbitrary Chinese policy. In the period 1950-1980, the Chinese Government established free winter heating for offices and homes via coal for fuel boilers as a “basic right”. Due to budgetary constraints, the program was only rolled out in Northern China which was deemed as the area bordered by the Huai River and Qinling Mountain Range. This “basic right” has resulted in significant concentrations of particles being added to the atmosphere.

The authors of the study found that compared to Southern China, the concentrations of particles in the air in Northern China were 55% higher, which contributed to the reduced life expectancy mainly due to cardiorespiratory mortality.

In the United States, a study by Harvard University and a number of partners has estimated that coal use comes with a very high cost, taking into account extraction, transport, processing and combustion. Actually, to the tune of US$345-500 billion every year in health impacts. This amount far outstrips the economic benefits of using coal as an energy source, as it effectively doubles or triples the price per kilowatt hour (kWh) and makes wind, solar and other renewables and investments in energy efficiency and conservation methods economically competitive.

Since 1995 in the United States, coal has provided approximately half of the country’s electricity and the demand for electricity is predicted to increase by 1.3% per year over the period 2005-2030, and coal derived electricity is predicted to increase by a similar percentage over the same period.

Among the recommendations provided by the authors of the study were a comparative analysis of the life cycle costs of all electricity generation technologies and practices to guide future energy policies, to begin phasing out coal and phasing in “clean power” smart grids using the most appropriate option in each region, and alternative industrial and farming policies for coal fields to support the manufacture and installation of renewable technologies (eg. solar, wind and small scale hydroelectricity).

Surely I am not the only person who can see that at the very least it is worth questioning the Abbott Government’s stance on coal being good for Australia based on the above? I’m not really convinced that the Australian health system is adequately resourced to cope with the ageing population in Australia and the most recent projections with respect to the size of that population going forward, let alone coping with a health issue such as that discussed above, especially given Australia has the highest per capita coal consumption on Earth. Actually, wouldn’t it be good if someone looked into a similar thing in Australia? … But then again that would mean funding research – oh no! And I haven’t even touched the subject of the environmental impacts …

Anthony Horton blogs on his own site; http://www.theclimatechangeguy.com.au


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  1. kasch2014

    Why keep harping on it – we know it, the LNP know it, and the deranged idiots who voted for them don’t want to know it or don’t care – they breathe money and eat processed foods blah blah blah …. what we need is a vigilante committee and a militia to get rid of this diseased, demented pack of criminals called the government. I can’t do it alone!

  2. stephentardrew


    Be careful what you wish for. Though many of us are, by comparison, radical socialists we need to head lessons from the past and realise there are as many dysfunctional people in the public domain as in government and finance. If you look at the blood baths of past revolutions, and their commandeering by a new set of elites, then you should proceed with all caution. Looking at history revolution is truly a double edged sword. It is difficult, but I would suggest much more sustainable, to move hearts and minds from within current constructs simply because the outcome of revolutions are so unpredictable and unstable. The left need predictability and sustainability over time not guns and violence. It is difficult and frustrating however persuasion is the only method that can lead to sustainable long term change. Remember nearly half of the population supports the right so any radical attacks upon the system will simply lead to greater division, reactivity and violence.

  3. Jo Blow

    So what’s your plan Kash? Should we turn Canberra into something resembling downtown Aleppo? Or maybe we could establish a dual government like Libya? Have a Government at each end of the country all stamping their feet and demanding the other to cease and desist! Remember that ‘this diseased, demented pack of criminals called the government’ was elected by 50% of the people! If you don’t like the government of the day then you have the right to get off your butt and stand in the 2016 elections and I would give my life to defend your rights to do that!

  4. Harquebus

    What’s the solution? Easy, population reduction and control. It’s going to happen anyway.

  5. Sil

    I would have to agree that using coal as fuel is bad because of the destruction to the land, fauna and flora that is caused by mining it. I support clean energy for that reason. BUT as far as co2s causing global warming, climate change, no! my opinion is that it is another case of ‘create the problem and offer the VERY expensive solution’. I believe ‘climate change’ is being geo-engineered. You can see the planes spraying the skys for God’s sake! Photos have circulated of the commercial airline planes fitted inside with the chemical tanks. Keep watching the skyes and you start to learn the difference between real clouds and that other stuff that is sprayed that starts to form into cloud-like material. And no, they are not condensation trails. Those are different. Not to mention the fact that the tax ends up at the UN. First globalisation tax???

  6. Sil

    Visit Karen Hudes Facebook page to find out more. Karen Hudes is a World Bank Lawyer. She has worked for the Word Bank for more than 20 years. She has been trying to tell people what’s going on since 2002. Here is some info from Karen: @KarenHudes
    The network of global corporate control that wants us to think it doesn’t exist https://s3.amazonaws.com/khudes/Twitter5.4.15.1.pdf

    Youtube videos of Karen’s interviews: http://www.frank-webb.com/karen-hudes—updates.html

  7. corvusboreuscorvus boreus

    Thank you for offering your opinion. I think you should research the subject more thoroughly (and broadly)to validate and modify your opinion with some solid(peer reviewed science type) facts.
    Yes, planes leave trails of fine particle emissions to which water vapour adheres. This is incontrovertably proven.
    Published papers have also linked concentrations of these con/chem-trails to measured local drops in temperature due to filtering/blocking of sunlight. The term coined was ‘global dimming’.
    There is speculation that this may be form of deliberate geo-engineering. One (controversial) theory is that it is being used to mask/counter the (generally accepted theory backed by laboratory experiments and field observations) effect that (incontrovertably) measured increases in CO2 in the atmosphere are having on the global climate.
    There is validity in questioning the orthodoxy of scientific opinion, but alternative hypotheses should be treated with at least as much scepticism as the mainstream scientific theories.

  8. sirslideOwen

    There are a few very fat fingers in some colossal sized pies at the moment. This is the reason coal is so massively pushed and protected. Comes down to finding a way of outlawing the pies altogether for all our benefit then we can move toward something less harmful for all and not just beneficial for the people with fat fingers. I’m biding my time patiently.

  9. totaram

    SirSlideOwen: I am in complete agreement with you, but would do anything to get those fat fingers out of those pies, or get those pies outlawed. Perhaps we can think of a few things like divesting, pushing divestment, preventing financing by big banks, etc. Patience I agree is required. Violence and revolution can only be the last resort.

  10. carlo

    in regards to co2 emissions causing global warming, probably not as much as this..


    maybe the reason why they are blocking out the sun with particulates from aircraft etc to reflect some of the radiation back off earth which seems to be heating us up. The use of HAARP and other devices etc may muck around with the electromagnetisphere/heliosphere as well?

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