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October 20, 2009
A figure that I would really like to know:
How many deaths can be attributed to coal burning?
Specifically, I want to know the deaths
attributable to the air pollution generated by
coal burning, though industry deaths (miners,
etc) would also be of interest.
In the early 80s, I read that it was 2000 deaths
annually in the United States.
Since then, I've seen higher figures: 20,000, even 200,000.
A Democracy Now headline suggests that
the right value might be near 20,000:
"A new report by the National Academy of Sciences estimates
that burning fossil fuels costs the United States about
$120 billion a year in hidden costs. The study estimated
that nearly 20,000 people die prematurely each year from
air pollutants emitted by power plants and vehicles. The
study found that coal burning was the biggest single source
of such external costs. Environmental groups said the
actual hidden cost of burning fossil fuels is even higher,
because the study did not include expenses related to
global warming. The National Mining Association criticized
the report for ignoring what it described as the hidden
benefits of coal-based generation."
So the figure I read back in the early 80s
may have been low by a factor of ten?
The coverage of the story in "The" Times, contradicts the
above on a key point, stating that the "damages are caused
almost equally by coal and oil":
So the question is how much of that 20,000
is from coal deaths is still open, for me...
but presumably there's an answer buried in
(Maybe they didn't want to point a finger
at any one place, however much it's deserved?)
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