Monday, May 30, 2011

Australian carbon burning-related deaths and carbon burning subsidies => minimum Carbon Price of A$554 per tonne carbon

How many Australians die each year from the effects of pollutants from vehicles, coal burning for electricity and other carbon burning? Answer: about 2,200, 4,600 and 2,800, respectively. At a "value of a statistical life" (VOSL) of $7.6 million per person ($73 billion pa for Australian carbon burning-related deaths) and $9 billion pa in fossil fuel subsidies, the minimum Carbon Price to cover carbon burning-derived deaths and carbon burning subsidies is $554 per tonne of carbon as compared to the best political offer yet of $20 per tonne of carbon.

G.W. Fisher et a report to the New Zealand Government (2002) : “The most likely estimate of the number of people above 30 years of age who experience premature mortality in New Zealand due to exposure to emissions of PM10 particulates from vehicles is 399 per year (with a 95% confidence range of 241-566 people) . This compares to 970 people above age 30 experiencing pre-mature mortality due to particulate pollution from all sources (including burning for home heating), and with 502 people dying from road accidents (all ages).” [1].

This data is from 2001. The New Zealand population in 2001 was 3.9 million; the Australian population was 21.5 million in 2010. [2].

Assuming identical demographics and other circumstances, then the Australian over-30 deaths from PM10 particulates from vehicles (2010) = 399 x 21.5/3.9 = 2,200.

Paul Gipes on Ontario coal burning-based deaths (2005): “Ontario's ruling party swept to power in the fall of 2003 on a series of promises. One of the most far reaching was its proposal to close the provinces coal-fired power plants by 2007. They argued that it was necessary to close the plants to protect the health of Ontario residents who lived downwind. Critics, notably in North America's fossil-fuel industry, have labeled this unrealistic if not foolhardy. Ontario generates nearly 27 TWh per year from 6,450 MW of coal-fired power plants, almost one-fifth of total provincial generation… Despite these and other limitations, the study provides sufficient economic grounds for the province to close the coal plants because of the plants' excessive environmental and social costs. Coal plants kill 668 people per year in Ontario, says the report, and cause 1,100 emergency room visits, and more than 300,000 minor illnesses per year. These and previous findings by the Ontario Medical Association were the rationale used by Ontario's ruling party in arriving at its campaign promise.” [3, 4].

Accordingly deaths from coal burning-based power generation in New Zealand 2001 were 668 x 2.28 TWh/ 27 TWh = 56.4 or about 56.

New Zealand non-coal, non-vehicle pollutant deaths in 2001 = 970 – 56.4 (coal-fired power) – 399 (vehicle exhaust) = 514.6 i.e. about 515 deaths.

Accordingly, from New Zealand data one can estimate that Australian over 30 deaths from PM10 particulates other than from vehicles and coal-fired power stations = 514.6 x 21.5/3.9 = 2,837.

Based on Treasury estimates “In 2010 when the RET begins, and a year before the emissions trading scheme, black (140.7 TWh) and brown (45.6 TWh) coal make up most [186.3 TWh or 73.1%] of Australia’s electricity (overall 254.9 TWh)”. [7].

We can accordingly estimate Australian deaths from coal in 2010 = 668 x 186.3 TWh/ 27 TWh = 4609 deaths.

In summary, from Canadian and New Zealand epidemiological data one can estimate that currently deaths from pollutants from the burning of carbonaceous materials currently totals 9,646 or about 10,000 annually, the breakdown being 4,600 (coal–fired power stations), 2,200 (vehicle particulate emissions) and 2,800 (particulates from other burning).

In 2008 the US EPA estimated that the risk avoidance-based value of a “statistical human life” was US$6.9 million, then about A$10 million [8].

According to Peter Abelson of Macquarie University in a detailed review (2002): “Many studies of the value of a statistical life have now been carried out, mainly using wage-risk or CV approaches, though apparently only one substantive study for Australia. The average VOSL [value of a statistical life] to emerge from these studies is in the order of A$3.5 to A$4.0 million. However, some recent reviews suggest that these results might be on the high side.” [9].

Peter Abelson (2007) wrote that “In Australia we spend about one-sixth of GDP to protect life and health in one way or the other”. Australia has a population of 22 million and a GDP of $1,000 billion and accordingly we could estimate the “value of a statistical life” as $1,000 billion / (22 million persons x 6) = A$7.6 million. [10].

Accordingly we can see that there is a “hidden subsidy” of fossil fuel and biomass burning in Australia = 9,646 persons x $7.6 million/person = $73 billion annually.

However there is a legislated annual subsidy of about $9 billion for fossil fuel burning in Australia. Thus there is a total of $73 billion + $9 billion = $82 billion pa in legislated and “hidden” subsidies for fossil fuel and biomass burning in Australia. [11, 12].

There is currently considerable speculation about a carbon price for Australia and the pro-environment Australian Greens have suggested an interim price of $20 per tonne of carbon. [13].

What is a minimum Australian carbon price required to cover the cost of carbon burning subsidies and carbon burning-based deaths? Australia’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is 542 million tonnes CO2-equivalent or 542 x 12/44 = 148 million tonnes carbon (C). Accordingly, this minimum price on carbon should be $82 billion / 148 million tonnes C = $554 per tonne carbon, 28 times higher than the best interim figure suggested so far by a major Australian political party.


[1]. G.W. Fisher et al., “Health effects due to moor vehicle pollution in New Zealand”, Report to NZ Government, 20 January 2002: .

[2]. UN Population Division, 2008 revision: ) .

[3]. Paul Gipe, “Ontario study identifies social costs of coal-fired power plants”, EV World, : .

[4]. DSS Management Consultants Inc. and RWDI Air Inc., for the Ontario Ministry of Energy, "Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario's Coal-Fired Electricity Generation" by April, 2005, 93 pages: .

[5]. US Energy Information Administration: .

[6]. “Electricity production from coal sources (% of total) in New Zealand”, Trading Economics, 2008: .

[7]. “A long life for coal”, The Age On-line, National Times, 2 November 209: .

[8]. AP, MSNBC, “How to value a life? EPA devalues its estimate”, MSNBC, 10 July 2008: .

[9]. Peter Abelson, “The value of life and health for public policy”, Applied Economics, 2002: .

[10]. Peter Abelson (2007), “Establishing a monetary value for lives saved: issues and controversies”, 2007.

[11]. Chris Riedy, "Energy and transport subsidies in Australia”, Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS, 2007: .

[12]. "Energy and transport subsides in Australia”, Wikipedia: .

[13]. “Greens propose interim carbon price”, ABC News, 21 January 2010: .

[14]. March quarter, 2010, Australian National Greenhouse Accounts: .

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