Impacts of Coal

Climate Change

Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel and phasing it out is a key step to achieve the emissions reductions needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement. The carbon-intensive energy trajectory of Turkey contradicts the high-level political will set in Paris that favours uptake of renewable technologies.

According to the official Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of Turkey issued on September 30, 2015, with the current policies total emissions will rise to 1,175 MtCO2e by 2030. In other words, Turkey will see over a 155% increase when compared to 2013 values. According to the reference scenario laid out in NDC, even if the 21% mitigation target according to BAU (keeping emissions at 929 MtCO2e in 2030) is achieved, the increase is still more than double the starting value.

Turkey’s strategy to focus on coal for energy generation can be identified as the main reason for both its low and inadequate mitigation target and its apathetic sense of responsibility towards falling below the two-degree target.

Health

Global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels reached to US$8 billion per day, or roughly 3.3% of the world’s GDP. Air pollution has a number of adverse effects on human health: vulnerability towards respiratory tract infections, aggravation in allergic respiratory system diseases and Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, irritation of the eyes, respiratory system cancers, increases in the prevalence of respiratory and circulatory system diseases and mortality rates. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has included outdoor air pollution as one of the leading causes of cancer in humans.

Coal power plants are an important contributor to air pollution in Turkey and one of today’s most important public health threats. Exposure to outdoor air pollution is linked to a number of health impacts including higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. In Turkey, the total estimated cost of the impact that is attributed to fossil fuel related air pollution is between 14,000 (low estimate) to 30,000 million USD (high estimate). These costs reflect the prices for the Turkish economy, and are mainly associated with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, which are two important groups of leading chronic diseases in Turkey. This health bill is paid by individuals, national health care budgets, and by the economy at large due to productivity losses. The total premature deaths ranges are estimated between 28,000 (low estimate) to 58,000 (high estimate).

Emissions from coal-fired power plants in Turkey contribute significantly to the burden of disease from environmental pollution. In Turkey, the total estimated cost of the impact that is attributed to fossil fuel related air pollution is between 14,000 (low estimate) to 30,000 million USD (high estimate). The total premature deaths ranges are estimated between 28,000 (low estimate) to 58,000 (high estimate).

Livelihoods

Coal-fired power plants are among the most polluting industries for livelihoods. The hazardous waste discharged into the environment from coal-fired power plants is comprised of suspended particles, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOC), dioxins, hydrochloric acid, ash, radioactive materials, and heavy metals.

Coal has negative impacts on the natural environment during every stage of its use: from its extraction and transportation, to its preparation (through crushing, sieving and washing) and burning, all the way through to the disposal of the waste produced in each of these stages. It destroys forests, valleys and mountains, while contaminating or depleting ground- and surface-water resources.

The CO2 gas released when coal is burned causes climate change, and the SO2 gas causes acid rain. Its waste pollutes the surrounding waters, and the majority of underground mercury is released into nature in this way.