Published on January 4th, 2017 | by Zachary Shahan0
Death — Meh
January 4th, 2017 by Zachary Shahan
Well, it’s a pretty philosophical topic when you get down to it — we’re all going to die, it’s up for debate whether we have any control over when or how we die, and it’s up for debate if dying prematurely is a negative thing or doesn’t matter at all. But, basically, I assume what most people assume — we should do what we can to avoid “premature” death and we should do what we can to not cause other people and animals premature death.
Well, you would think that these are assumptions most people try to live by. However, when you look at the voting records and campaigns of many politicians and businesspeople, that ideal sort of disintegrates.
There are multiple bad habits and environmental factors that can cause heart disease, cancer, and lower respiratory diseases. However, since I run a cleantech blog focused on reducing air pollution from dirty power plants and gasmobiles, it crossed my mind immediately (well, before I even opened and saw the chart) that heart disease and cancer are caused by pollution from coal power plants, natural gas power plants, and gas/diesel cars (as do lower respiratory diseases, which I didn’t think ranked so “highly”).
I’m not sure how many of the deaths displayed very concisely above (over 1.2 million deaths from those first two causes — in the US in 2015 alone) were actually caused by pollution — versus bad diets, lack of exercise, and smoking, for example — but I’m sure the number wasn’t negligible. According to the OECD, air pollution from road transport costs OECD countries approximately $1 trillion a year in negative health effects (cancer, premature death, asthma, heart attacks, etc.). It estimates there were >110,000 premature deaths in the US from outdoor air pollution in 2010, >42,000 in Germany, >24,000 in the UK, >7,000 in Canada, and >478,000 in the OECD in total.
“Particulate matter is singlehandedly responsible for up to 30,000 premature deaths each year” in the US. The “cost of outdoor air pollution” in the US in terms of premature death was estimated to be $500 billion in 2010, with about half of that cost coming from road transport. That is the estimated cost only from premature deaths — it doesn’t include the costs of asthma, cancers that people survive, heart attacks that people survive, etc.
(Note that there are other causes of premature death related to fossil fuel dependency as well. For example, the USA has a large military focus — and spends perhaps $75 billion a year — in order to secure access to foreign sources of oil and keep supply routes open.)
The striking point is that it makes basically no sense to keep pushing dirty energy at this point. Electric cars are better in dozens of ways. And solar and wind power are typically cheaper — even if you don’t take premature death and other health costs into account.
Yet, there are many people who don’t seem to care that outdated oil, coal, and natural gas use is causing premature death, is causing horrendous cancers and heart disease, and is causing the suffering that relates to those things. Some of these people simply aren’t aware of the competitive cleantech alternatives.
However, politicians shouldn’t be in that boat. They definitely have the resources at hand to know that cleantech like clean energy and electric vehicles are ready for mass-market adoption and quick scaling up of production. They also shouldn’t approach the premature death from fossil fuels as a low-interest topic. Yet, many of them ignore this massive problem, fight the solutions, and try to keep the funnel open for trillions of dollars of subsidies for fossil fuels.