Health Costs of Energy
The health costs associated with global warming and resource depletion are a major component of the external cost of energy...
The impact of the production and consumption of energy on human health contributes to a significant share of the external costs of energy; that is to say to the price that is not paid by the players of the energy market, but rather by the general public.
- - Introduction
In the last European analysis, an update of the ExternE study launched in the 1990’s, the monetary impact on health is evaluated as ranking third, after climate change, and the depletion of energy resources: Fig. 1.
Figure 1. External monetary cost of energy in Europe. Health impacts appear under the headings "human toxicity" and "particulate matter formation", a major component of air pollution, and in a fraction of the "climate change" costs, allocated to some of the identified and quantifiable health consequences of global warming.
Health impact costs are likely to be revised upwards, however, given the uncertainties regarding the cost of emerging global warming related pathologies (which are not included) and the ever-increasing monetary evaluation of the cost of human life.
Moreover, a distinctive feature of the impacts on health is that it introduces a significant ethical dimension into the analysis: although the benefits of energy are enjoyed by the entire community, the medical consequences of energy impact only the victims. The mutualization of health costs, calculated on the basis of average loss of life expectancy, implicitly assumes an equitable distribution of the health burden, which is far from likely if we take into account the proven existence of risk groups and the inequitable occurrence of chronic diseases such as cancer. This is an important consideration, as it has a direct influence on risk acceptability, which is difficult to achieve on the basis of cost optimization alone.
- - Risk Identification
Ascertaining the health damages that can be attributed to energy, implies that the complete life cycle of each energy sector and of each of its components be considered. This includes the impacts of extraction, transformation, production, transportation and creation of wastes, both in accidental situations and in normal operating conditions.
To read the ful English version of Roland Masse's Scientific Study (27 pages) : please click on the link Health Costs of Energy