This article originally appeared in the 'Science vs Politics Fight Club' section of Beyond, my free newsletter for lovers of science and science fiction. Sign up here - http://eepurl.com/btvru1
It’s probably one of the most ill-informed statements ever made by a
leader of a developed country. But apart from the disastrous
environmental effects of coal, and the massive influence coal burning
has on climate change, a recent study from a group of health researchers
appointed by The Lancet, demonstrated another reason why we’d
be better off switching to renewables like solar and wind power as soon
as possible: saving hundreds of thousands of lives and $230 billion a
year in global healthcare costs by 2030.
Air pollution caused by the burning of coal and other fossil fuels kills
seven million people each year, and 88% of the world’s population is
breathing air below the World Health Organisation’s quality guidelines
as a result. The report found that bringing CO2 in the atmosphere below
current levels by 2070 would quickly prevent 500,000 premature deaths by
2030, rising to 2.2 million by 2100.
To achieve this, world governments would need to inject an extra $1
trillion into developing and encouraging renewable technologies. It
sounds like a lot of money until you consider fossil fuel companies will
receive $5.3 trillion in government subsidies in 2015 alone.
Right at the beginning of the industrial revolution, there may have been
a time when, on balance, coal was good for humanity. But those days are
Science: one | Politics: nil.