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Negative Effects Of Renewable Energy – Fossil is a dirty and dangerous source of energy, while nuclear and renewable energy can be safer and cleaner. A big difference.
All sources of energy have negative effects. But they are very different in scale: as we will see, fossil fuels are the most polluting and dangerous, while nuclear and modern energy can be safer and cleaner.
Negative Effects Of Renewable Energy
From a human health and climate change perspective, it doesn’t matter if we go nuclear.
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Energy has played a major role in the human development we have seen over the past centuries. As the United Nations rightly says: “energy is an integral part of all the challenges and opportunities the world faces today.”
But although power brings us great benefits, there are no negative consequences. Energy production can have a negative impact on human health and the environment in three ways.
The first is air pollution: millions of people die prematurely every year because of air pollution. Carbon dioxide and the burning of biomass – wood, sawdust and coal – are responsible for this disease.
The second is danger. These include the risks of mining and extraction of fossil fuels – coal, uranium, rare metals, oil and gas. It also includes accidents that occur during the transportation of goods and infrastructure, the construction of a power plant, or operation.
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The third is greenhouse gases: fossil fuels are the main source of greenhouse gases, which are responsible for climate change. By 2020, 91% of global greenhouse gas emissions will come from industrial fuels.1
No energy source is completely safe. All of them have a temporary effect on human health, whether through air pollution or accidents. And all have long-term implications for climate change.
However, their role in each is very different. Fuels are polluting and harmful in the short term, releasing 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 of greenhouse gases per unit of energy. This means that we are happy that there are no products from here: low carbon energy is also safe. From a human health and climate change perspective, it doesn’t matter if we go nuclear.
Before we consider the long-term effects of climate change, let’s look at how each market performs in terms of the short-term effects on health.
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Diseases from all sources: fossil fuels still dominate the world’s electricity mix, so we can imagine that they are killing many people.
. This is measured in terawatt hours. One terawatt hour is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 150,000,000 people in the European Union.2
Let’s look at this comparison in the table. Fuel and biomass kill more people than nuclear and conventional power per unit of electricity. Coal, by far, is the most polluted.
However, estimates of fossil fuels are highly probable. They are based on electricity in Europe, have good pollution control methods, and are based on old models of the health effects of air pollution. As I discuss in detail at the end of this article,
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The number of deaths caused by fossil fuels based on recent air pollution studies may be higher.
Our perception of the safety of nuclear power is strongly influenced by two accidents: Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, and Fukushima in Japan in 2011. These were tragic events. However, compared to the millions of people who die from fossil fuels
The final casualties were few. To calculate the number of dead people used here I assume that 433 people died from Chernobyl, and 2,314 from Fukushima.4 If you are interested in this, I look at the number of people who died in each event in detail in this article related to it.
Another resource that is most affected by major disasters is hydropower. The number of deaths since 1965 is 1.3 deaths per TWh. This rate is controlled by one thing: the failure of the Banqiao Dam in China in 1975. It killed about 171,000 people. Otherwise, electricity was relatively safe, with only 0.04 deaths per TWh – compared to nuclear, solar and wind.
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Finally, we have sun and wind. The death toll from both sources is low, but not zero. A small number of people die from supply chain accidents – from helicopters colliding with turbines; fire during installation of turbines or panels; and drowning in the open air.
People often look at the difference between the tables – between nuclear, solar and wind. This comparison is misleading: the uncertainty of these values means that they are possible.
For example, nuclear power is 99.9% more dangerous than coal; 99.8% compared to coal; 99.7% on oil; and 97.6% less gas. Air and sun are safe.
Let’s think about the number of people who die every year causing a typical city of 150,000,000 people in the European Union, which – as I said before – consumes terawatt hours of electricity per year. Let’s call this city ‘Euroville’.
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25 people die prematurely every year because of it. Most of these people die from pollution.
The good news is that there is no trade-off between energy sources that are safer in the short term, and more harmful to the environment in the long term. They are similar, as the following table shows.
In the table, on the left side, we have the same comparison of accident mortality and air pollution that we are looking at. That’s right, we have an exhaust gas model
Not just emissions from burning fossil fuels, but also from mining, transportation and power plant maintenance.
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Coal is also a dirty fuel. It emits more greenhouse gases than any other source – hundreds of times more than nuclear, solar and wind.
Oil and gas are also more efficient than nuclear and renewables, but to a lesser extent than coal.
Unfortunately, the world’s electricity mix is still dominated by fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas make up 60%. If we want to stop climate change in front of us we have a great opportunity: we can move away from them to nuclear and renewables, and also reduce the diseases caused by accidents and air pollution as a result that.
This change will not only protect future generations, but will bring many health benefits now.
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The number of people dying from fossil fuels worldwide is likely to be higher than shown in the table above.
The number of people killed by coal, oil and gas that we use in this comparison comes from a paper by Anil Markandya and Paul Wilkinson (2007) in the Journal of Medicine,
. So far, these are the best, peer-reviewed I can find on death from here. These prices are based on electricity production in Europe.
However, there are three main reasons why I think these death toll figures may be too conservative.
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Another reason to suspect that the global rate is too high is the following: if we take the number of deaths from Markandya and Wilkinson (2007) and multiply it by the global electricity production, the estimate is that all diseases in the world are caused. with much lower oil consumption than recent research.
If I calculate the death toll in Markandya and Wilkinson (2007) for coal, oil and gas from their global electricity supply in 2021, I get a death toll of 280,000.9.
This is much lower than the estimates of recent studies. For example, Leliveld et al. (2018) estimate that every year 3.6 million people die as a result of smoking.. 10 Vohra et al. (2021) and more than double this number: 8.7 million
Production But we can estimate the number of people who die. In a recent paper, Leliveld and colleagues compared climate-related disease volatility across sectors. They estimate that 12% of
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Based on my calculations, we expect 1.1 to 2.55 million people to die from spent fuel.
Estimates by Markandya and Wilkinson (2007) put the number of deaths between 4 and 9. This suggests that the number of people who die from burns can be from 4 times to a 9 more.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a large number of coal, oil and gas deaths to talk about here but a better estimate is sorely needed. The number of people dying today can be reduced.
Our statistics on nuclear, solar and wind power are based on the most accurate data we have to date. However, they are not perfect, and there is currently no dataset that tracks these events. This is an important gap in understanding the security of energy markets – and how their security changes over time.
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To estimate mortality rates from renewable energy technologies, Sovacool et al. (2016) created a database of energy-related events in scientific data and news reports. They define an accident as “an unexpected event or event occurring at a power plant that results in the loss of one (or more) lives.”
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