Killer coal and other fossil fuels
Climate change, ocean acidification, ocean warming, sea level rise and desertification, will lead to forced migration, famine and wars. Increased frequency and intensity of heat-waves, storms, bushfires and floods will kill many. For more about the consequences of climate change see information on these pages and links to external sources.
Ocean acidification and warming will change the ecology of the oceans, destroy the worlds coral reefs and damage fisheries.
And we don't need coal!The state of South Australia has shown, by its great success in changing toward renewable energy, that we don't need to burn coal to generate our electricity. SA shut down its last coal-fired power station in 2016, by the end of 2022 two thirds of it electricity demand was being filled by wind and solar power.
Contact: David K Clarke – ©
The main sources of ambient air pollution are petroleum powered motor vehicles and coal burning. The main sources of air pollution in homes are coal smoke, kerosine smoke (from lamps) and wood smoke.
Air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels includes:
Berkeley Earth (2015) compared the health effects of air pollution to cigarette smoking. They found that living in the European Union exposed one to air pollution equivalent to smoking 1.6 cigarettes per day. For China the figure was 2.4, in Beijing, 4.0. Much of the air pollution in China and India is from coal burning. A number of Indian cities have similar air pollution problems to Beijing and a substantial part of that pollution comes from burning coal from my country, Australia.
US President Barack Obama (late May 2014) said:
"We don't have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children"
exports more coal than any other: 38% of the world's total coal exports are from Australia. Making the conservative assumption that only two million of the seven million deaths attributed to air pollution are due to coal burning we can calculate that Australian coal causes 110 000 deaths per year.
Australia ranked 60th of 61 nations in the Climate Change Performance Index of 2015 and, if anything, the actions of the Morrison government of 2018-2022 has further damaged Australia's standing. This is a cause for national shame.
In Australia in 2017 our Liberal coalition government couldn't see past the profits that they believe can be made by digging up and burning or exporting millions of tonnes of this killer commodity. Curiously they manage to ignore or overlook the profits that could be made from clean, sustainable, renewable energy in which Australia could be a world leader.
As Frank Jotzo, Director, Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, Australian National University, wrote in The Coversation,
"New coal plants wouldn't be clean, and would cost billions in taxpayer subsidies".
Australia's energy future is with renewables; this is obvious to all but the most intentionally blind.
Outside Australia, people and the more progressive organisations are turning away from coal because they see its shortcomings and because they see it lacks a viable economic future. They are turning toward clean, non-polluting, renewable energy.
"It's particularly important that we do not demonise the coal industry and if there was one fundamental problem, above all else, with the carbon tax was that it said to our people, it said to the wider world, that a commodity which in many years is our biggest single export, somehow should be left in the ground and not sold. Well really and truly, I can think of few things more damaging to our future."PM Abbott would like to export even more coal and death, and he would do so if the Australian people allow him to. The man, who calls himself a Christian, has not the slightest conception of morality.
Prime Ministers Turnbull, Abbott and Morrison seem to be among the very few national leaders on the planet who want minimal action on climate change and ocean acidification. Tony Abbott is a man who claims to be Christian yet who seems to be motivated only by ambition and money.
How much CO2?In 2012 Australia mined about 430 million tonnes of coal. This is about 14 tonnes each second. When these 14 tonnes are burned they produce about 25 tonnes of CO2 every second – which goes straight into the atmosphere! This is a matter for national shame.
Note that these are the death rates per terawatt-hour of energy produced, not the total number of deaths.
It can be calculated from the data on the graph that if all methods of energy production were used in equal amounts 69% of all deaths would come from coal burning (brown and black) and a massive 94% would come from fossil fuels in general (coal, oil and gas).
If fact, as fossil fuels, especially coal, are used more than most other methods of power generation the proportion of deaths from the burning of coal must be even greater than this.
The article in Our World in Data expressed the figures in another way as well. If there was a "town of 27,000 EU citizens, who would collectively consume around one terawatt-hour of energy a year. These are the impacts if they got all of their energy from a given source:
Time on 2015/12/02 under the headline "Coal Is the Most Dangerous Pollutant for Heart Disease".
The research showed that air pollution from the burning of coal for electricity generation was something like five times as damaging to our hearts as was general air pollution. The research also showed that Diesel traffic-related soot was associated with heart disease deaths but that particulate air pollution from both wind-blown soil and biomass combustion were not.
PM Malcolm Turnbull is known to have serious concerns about the burning of coal and the resulting climate change, yet he still follows the Liberal party line and promotes the dying coal industry. Will this news give him any second thoughts? I suspect that ambition will win-out over his conscience, again.
The health study report can be read at Environmental Health Perspective.
article in The Conversation, by Ian Wright, Jason Reynolds and Leo Robba dated 2022/02/09 tells of "The stunning recovery of a heavily polluted river in the heart of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area" following years of effort from environmentalists.
Quoting from the article:
"For more than 40 years, an underground coal mine discharged poorly treated wastewater directly into the Wollangambe River, which flows through the heart of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area.Something of the history on the Clarence Colliery can be read on the Global Energy Monitor Wiki. "Mining began at Clarence colliery in 1979, while coal storage and transport from the site by rail commenced in 1980 and a coal preparation plant came into production in July 1981. Centennial coal obtained the mine in 1998."
No doubt there would be many more cases of polluted rivers resulting from coal mining around the world for anyone who cared to look for them.
In the Summary section of the submission they wrote:
It is interesting to note that the health industries
employ more people in the Latrobe Valley than either coal mining or power generation.
Perhaps this is connected with the poor health of the local people?
Deaths to be expected from proposed coal mines
in the Galilee Basin, Queensland.
Wikipedia gives world coal extraction as 7 865 million tonnes (MT) per
year and total Australian extraction as 431MT.
"China's cancer rates exploding, more than 4 million people diagnosed in 2015, study says". Written by ABC's China Correspondent Matthew Carney, 2016/03/24.
"In some of the industrial provinces, lung cancer rates have increased a staggering four-fold" and the cause seems to be air pollution, largely due to coal burning.
"Cancer has been the leading cause of death in China since 2010, with lung cancer causing the most deaths."
You can't enjoy having electric lights if you are dead.
We'd be doing the Indian people a much bigger favour if we were to help them develop renewable wind and solar power to lift them out of energy poverty without the pollution from coal-burning.
The pathogenic amoeba is associated with warm water. Lake Liddell is used for cooling the Liddell power station so its water is consequently considerably warmer than it otherwise would be. It has been closed for recreational use for safety reasons.
The dangerous amoeba has been found in other water bodies warmed by coal fired power stations around the world.
End of coal; coal has no future, economically or in any other way
South Australia's great success in changing toward renewable energy; SA shut down its last coal-fired power station in 2016, by the end of 2022 two thirds of it electricity demand was being filled by wind and solar power.
The ludicrous claim that "Coal is good for humanity"
The world is facing the End of coal as a commodity and industry
Greatest crime in the history of humanity
The embarrassingly bad and shameful Abbott government
The abysmally unethical Morrison government
Coal miners share the air the rest of us breath, they also have to accept the risk of black lung disease, coal miners' pneumoconiosis.
3,200 deaths a year: 1 of many reasons air pollution in Australia demands urgent national action; The Conversation, 2023/09/07, written by Deren Pillay, Bill Dodd and Bin Jalaludin
World Health Organisation: More than 90% of the world’s children breath toxic air every day.
World Health Organisation reports, 'Burden of disease from Household Air Pollution for 2012', and 'Burden of disease from Ambient Air Pollution for 2012', (available on the same link), state that around 7 million people die each year from air pollution, much of this resulting from burning coal.
The World Health Organisation report mentioned above was summarised in The Guardian.
The University of British Columbia released a statement 2016/02/12 headlined "Poor air quality kills 5.5 million worldwide annually". The research was headed by Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver. Coal was found to be a major contributor, together with the burning of wood, dung and other biomass. This work was also published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Berkeley Earth (2015) compared the health effects of air pollution to smoking cigarettes.
Think Progress; India's polluted air now kills 1.1 million people per year. This referred to the State of Global Air report: below.
State of Global Air/2017: A special report on global exposure to air pollution and its disease burden.
The State of Global Air has an interactive Net site.
The prestigious health journal, The Lancet, 2017/02/11, published an opinion piece by Chris McCall, titled Australia's new coal mine plan: a "public health disaster".
An article published in The Lancet in 2007 put numbers on the deaths caused by the burning of coal in Europe to generate electricity. I have used these numbers to calculated how many deaths might be avoided in Australia by replacing coal-fired power with wind energy.
Doctors for the Environment, Australia, 2010/07/19, published a Policy Paper on the Health Impact of Coal Pollution and Renewable Energy. A quote:
"The greatest co-benefit for global and national health [from replacing coal with renewables] would be a reduction in the mining of coal and in its use for power generation. Taking all externalities into account, including the health burden of coal in Australia estimated by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering to be $2.6 billion per annum, it is likely that coal is the most expensive fuel. Yet under our present accounting system it is the cheapest, and an unfair competitor for renewable energy."
More on Australia and coal
Australia's part in the crime
Biggest employer in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria is health
Cancers in China and air pollution from coal burning
Coal can pollute rivers too
Comparison: fossil fuels compared to the other energy sources
Energy poverty: the lie
Galilee Basin: deaths that could be expected from mining
Health effects of mining and burning coal in Australian
Polluted river due to coal mining
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Most dangerous pollution
Want more jobs in health industries? Mine and burn more coal