by Ray Mylius
Australia is a global citizen with global responsibilities. A recent newsletter from Doctors for the Environment Australia (2/1/12) noted that global issues include: climate change (in particular the greenhouse effect), ozone depletion, ocean and air pollution, loss of biodiversity, movement of hazardous products and wastes and the spread of diseases and their vectors. Australians contribute to ocean pollution, greenhouse gas accumulation and ozone depletion.
Our health is also impacted upon by global problems. The comprehensive study (Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal, Paul R. Epstein et al. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Volume 1219, Ecological Economics Reviews pages 73–98, February 2011) on the externalities, mainly health costs, from coal mining and combustion in the USA assesses the true cost of electricity as two to three times greater than at present. This erases the supposed cost advantage of coal. These costs are incurred from pollution causing cardiorespiratory and other diseases, and by reduced life expectancy, which has been demonstrated by epidemiological studies in the US and confirmed in other countries.
In Australia, 2.3 per cent of all deaths are attributable to air pollution, while the combined economic costs from lost productivity, health and welfare due to burning fossil fuels run into billions – $4.7 billion per annum in the Greater Metropolitan Sydney area alone.