The true cost of China’s reliance on coal has been revealed after a study concluded that in 2012 there were an estimated 670,000 deaths in the country as a result of air pollution, caused by coal burning, reports South China Morning Post.
The study calculated that for every tonne of coal that is produced there is an additional cost of 260 yuan, which accounts for resulting medical costs and damage to the environment.
Teng Fei, an associate professor at Tsinghua University, explains that “with existing environmental fees and taxes of between 30 to 50 yuan for each tonne of coal, the country’s current pricing system has largely failed to reflect the true costs.”
Teng added a break down of the major illnesses caused by the dreaded PM 2.5 (airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrograms) that people living in China have become all too familiar with. The main resulting illnesses causing death in 2012, according to the study, were strokes, lung cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In addition to the health risks that are clearly present, China’s dependance on coal has had a crippling effect on the environment, thus adding further hidden costs to the process of coal production. Mining and coal transportation, alone, are reported to add an extra 94 yuan of costs per tonne produced.
Li Guoxing, from Peking University’s School of Public Health, provided some startling information revealing that the results of the study still do not fully reflect the true magnitude of the situation, with medical costs of other illnesses resulting from pollution, such as asthma, still not being accounted for.
“The health cost [of the study] is only based on the premature death figures due to the limitations of our research data.” He added that “it could be way higher if we also include medical costs for other chronic illnesses.”
Back in December 2013, the World Health Organization created an interactive map, which revealed the shocking impact of coal plant emissions on estimated premature deaths in China. Take a look here.
By Robert Ridley