First, Close all the Coal Plants: MIT Study Shows they Shorten Lives

“Data from China show that large amounts of coal emissions shorten lives”:

The MIT Energy Intiative reports:

” A high level of air pollution, in the form of particulates produced by burning coal, significantly shortens the lives of people exposed to it, according to a unique new study of China co-authored by an MIT economist.

The research is based on long-term data compiled for the first time, and projects that the 500 million Chinese who live north of the Huai River are set to lose an aggregate 2.5 billion years of life expectancy due to the extensive use of coal to power boilers for heating throughout the region. Using a quasi-experimental method, the researchers found very different life-expectancy figures for an otherwise similar population south of the Huai River, where government policies were less supportive of coal-powered heating.

“We can now say with more confidence that long-run exposure to pollution, especially particulates, has dramatic consequences for life expectancy,” says Michael Greenstone, the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at MIT, who conducted the research with colleagues in China and Israel.”

PTV PH also reports:

Coal plants put out mercury and other toxic chemicals and are implicated in autism in children. But their major danger to the earth is that they are the dirtiest of hydrocarbons, spewing billions of metric tons a year of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and threatening us with climate catastrophe.

The world should adopt a goal of closing all coal plants within ten years, if we are to survive as a species.

4 Responses

  1. I fully share your worries and insights about the destructiveness of coal. However, getting rid of it in ten years is not even remotely possible.

    Please consider the developments in Germany. They increased their coal consumption from 76 million tonnes of oil equivalents in 2011 to 79 MTOE in 2012, an increase of 4%. In 2013, Germany opts to put some 5000 MW new “modern” coal plants online, while decommissioning only 1000 MW of old coal.

    The only large-scale non-hydro success story when it comes to getting rid of fossil-fueled electricity is the French one, and it took them some 19 years. To do it with expensive and intermittent renewable sources obviously takes much longer, if it can be done at all.

    Also, please consider the shift in consumption. China is at 50% of global coal consumption, USA at 12%, India at 8%, Japan at 3%, and the rest is smaller. Historically, the US and Europe were the big polluters. But from now on, the fate of our climate lies in the hands of China and India.

    • Germany had to slightly increase coal because it closed its nuclear plants, which I am not advocating we do in the US. Closing all the US coal plants in 10 years and replacing them with wind, solar and natural gas (as little as possible of natural gas) is entirely possible. It would just be a little expensive and take a lot of political will. But it is ‘remotely’ possible, in fact proximately possible.

      • Ah, you talked only about the US. Then I agree that there is a technical possibility to do it, with an “all of the above” approach, including stopping the regulatory strangulation of nuclear power.

        Btw, Germany has closed only its older nuclear plants. The rest will be closed successively until 2022. It has thus virtually guaranteed no progress with coal will be made until at least then.

Comments are closed.