US Climate and Health Alliance

Trevor Hancock: Assess health impact of our energy systems


The use of vast amounts of energy is one of the defining characteristics of the industrial age. Just how much energy we use was vividly captured by R.J. Gonzalez in a book on energy and the environment in 1976. He described energy utilization in the U.S. as “the equivalent of having 400 mechanical servants working for us five days a week, 50 weeks a year. It’s a total of roughly 100,000 servant-equivalent days per year per person in the United States. This is why we are productive. This is why we can have the kind of standard of living we enjoy.” But our use of energy comes at a large and mainly unacknowledged health and economic cost. In a chapter on energy and health in the 2012 book Global Energy Assessment, the authors found that energy systems were directly accountable for five per cent of all deaths globally in 2000, and indirectly caused another five per cent of deaths. Indeed, overall, they found that energy systems pose a health risk comparable in scale to tobacco, alcohol and high blood pressure.

Resource Type
Times Colonist
Resource URL
June 29, 2016
Organization Type
Health and Human Impact
Climate and Environmental Impact
Emission Sources
Conventional energy Energy Conventional
Health surveillance

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