“You Get What You Pay For” When it Comes to Cheap Coal

By path2positive

When it comes to cheap coal, the health effects are costly. To consumers, purchasing the cheapest possible energy source may seem like the right move. But when we add up the social impacts of dirty energy, is coal truly cheap? Considering its impact on air pollution, the "right price" for coal is much higher than current market value. Ottmar Edenhofer of the Berlin-based Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change says in the CityLab article below: "Getting prices right before this infrastructure is built is essential. If the opportunity to correct the distortion in fossil fuel pricing is missed, climate policy is in peril." Can health leaders help ensure we implement meaningful taxes on coal use from an environmental and health perspective? We sure can. Health professionals are in a unique position to foster support for climate solutions. Changing the cost of these dirty energy sources is just one way to approach the issue, but one thing is for sure: the price of our health should be higher than the price of coal.

The Enormous Social Cost of Cheap Coal


Eric Jaffe I September 17, 2015

On Wednesday, a global research team reported in the top-tier scientific journal Nature that air pollution prematurely kills about 3.3 million people a year around the world. In the U.S., the annual toll approaches 55,000 deaths—with power plant emissions the leading contributor. And by 2050, in the absence of any major changes, those mortality figures are expected to double.

When it comes to energy-related emissions capable of killing human beings, the main culprit is coal. For decades, oil wore that crown of carbon, but in the early 2000s coal became the greatest fossil fuel emitter, and hasn’t looked back. As a recent chart from the journal PNAS shows, the trajectories of oil and coal as shares of total global emissions are moving in opposite directions:

In a new essay published in another top scientific journal, Science, Ottmar Edenhofer of the Berlin-based Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change offers a strikingly simple reason for “the renaissance of coal”: it’s too cheap.

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