Jun 6, 2014

Obama coughs up the solution to coal pollution

The US President is switching the conversation on climate change over to human health. Doctors George Crisp and David Shearman say he's on to something.

President Barack Obama has made one of the most important health statements ever made by a leader. It will save thousands of lives and much suffering.

This week, in launching his new climate change plan, Obama focussed on the immediate negative impacts of pollution from power stations on people’s health. As Crikey pointed out, it’s a new way of framing the issue of reducing emissions, an approach that has not been much tried by Australian policy-makers.

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19 thoughts on “Obama coughs up the solution to coal pollution

  1. Mark Duffett

    Obama…moving to renewable energy now

    What was that again?

    Here’s what Obama has actually said he’s moving to: ‘demand-side energy efficiency programs; renewable energy standards; efficiency improvements at power plants; co-firing or switching to natural gas; transmission efficiency improvements; renewable energy storage technology; the retirement of inefficient power plants, nuclear energy, and market-based trading programs’

    What is it with the propensity of so many writers on these subjects (‘Doctors for the Environment’, seriously?) to project their own prejudices with such intensity that all references to decarbonisation approaches other than renewables get blanked down the memory hole?

  2. JennyWren

    At worst the industry is a huge economic burden.

    The link is broken.

  3. AR

    Duffer – have you no conscience whatsoever?

  4. Andrew Dolt

    Dunno if Duff is free of conscience, but he definitely ain’t free of prejudice. Why shouldn’t doctors be for the environment, Duff? Do you think the environment has no health implications? Seriously?

    I’ll ask you again, Duff: why are the fans of nuclear power boundlessly optimistic about the ability of human technological ingenuity to make the dangerous and complicated nuclear process cheap and safe, despite apparently intractable problems? At the same time why are they deeply pessimistic about the ability of human technological ingenuity to make renewable energy, which is already cheap and safe, ever more efficient and battery capacity ever greater, despite excellent progress? They wouldn’t be blinkered by prejudice, would they?

  5. Mark Duffett

    AD, you’ve got it arse-about, it was more the ‘doctors’ part was I having a go at, not the environment. First, being ‘for the environment’ is a motherhood statement. Second, what special capability or insight is it that these doctors think they’re bringing? Are the WWF, ACF etc somehow beneath them? You might as well have ‘Plumbers for the Environment’ or ‘Quantity Surveyors for Public Health’, etc.

    Your mischaracterisations abound. First, the thing about favouring nuclear as a tool in the decarbonisation box is that there’s no need for ‘optimism’ that it might be effective: it’s already been demonstrated on a major country scale by the likes of France. It’s a proven solution. Far from being ‘dangerous’, on any objective measure nuclear is the safest per-unit energy source we have, not excluding solar and wind. Far from being intractable, the problems of nuclear are minuscule in comparison to the benefit derived, dwarfed by the products of other industries. How many times does it need to be said that multiple waste solutions already exist?

    Prejudice? Only one side of the debate wants to exclude another entirely, and it isn’t the pro-nuclear one.

    Conscience? Right back at you, AR – unjustified fears fuelled by anti-nuclear activism have been, by orders of magnitude, the greatest cause of deaths from both Chernobyl and Fukushima, and have set effective climate action back by decades. I’d be hitting the Stilnox pretty hard if I were you.

  6. CML

    Bravo! to George and David. Many thanks for high-lighting the health implications of fossil fuel use. It is high time the MSM got off its collective backside and started publishing these data that you have presented.
    But no – we will probably have to wait until more people die in some kind of catastrophe before anyone takes any notice!!

    Also, there is a problem with the economic argument. Of course, once the cost of health care is added to all the other factors causing increased expenditure in our polluted environment, there shouldn’t be an economic debate necessary.

    However, those who own/manage businesses within the fossil fuel/power production industries, couldn’t care less about sick/dead people. Their only interest is making money, and lots of it. Therefore, their workers and the communities who sustain them, are just so much fodder to the rich and powerful. Cynical? Maybe, but never-the-less true.

    Unfortunately, these pillars of society have the money and power to influence (in particular) our current federal LNP government and most of the state governments of the same colour!

    And Mark Duffett – Until you have watched and cared for someone who has died from heart and/or lung disease over months or years as a result of coal mining, or living in that environment, why don’t you STFU!! I, for one, am grateful there are doctors who care enough about our planet to work for change, and I think all we nurses should join them.

  7. Mark Duffett

    CML, pretty close to everything I’ve written here is about how to get off coal as quickly as possible.

  8. AR

    Duffer, except that your ‘cure’- nukes – is the same as the genius who invented heroin as a cure for morphine addiction. It worked, kinda-sorta.

  9. Andrew Dolt

    Duff, something is getting in the way of accurate reading on your part, as demonstrated below. If it’s not prejudice, what is it?

    1)The article itself is not about renewables vs nuclear, it doesn’t go there at all. It is about the dangers of coal. You are having a dummy spit because it doesn’t address this issue, when it is not about this issue.

    2) I never said nuclear energy wasn’t effective. I said it wasn’t cheap: it isn’t. I said it was complicated: it is.

    3) On the question of whether nuclear is dangerous: get back to me when Fukushima is under control, when people are living healthy lives in Chernobyl, when it is impossible for nuclear fuel to go missing, get stolen, or be used for weapons, and when you can show that nuclear waste can be safely stored for hundreds of thousands of years.

  10. Andrew Dolt

    And another thing, Duff: I would have thought the special capability and insights these doctors could bring to bear were demonstrated in the article itself.

    I’m also perfectly happy to include you in the debate. Let’s kick it off by establishing how you get your electricity supply. Do you have solar panels on your roof? A wind turbine in your backyard? Or a nuclear reactor in your backyard?

    See, that’s another big problem with nuclear: it doesn’t get us off the centralised grid. A number of dispersed electricity generators not tied to a grid are going to be much more useful in a world where basic resources are going to get ever more scarce, competition for them greater (including war) and interruptions to supply more common.

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