Seth Godin recently posted this simplified chart, from an altogether more complicated one. He maintains that this is a simple yet non-exaggerated version of the complicated one. The point is that for each person killed by nuclear power generation, 4,000 die from coal. This is adjusted for how much power is produced by each method of power generation.
He also points out that if we were to take into account such things as deaths from environmental impacts yet unmeasured, due to climate change caused by fossil fuel emissions for instance, the chart would skew even more.
His post is actually focused on the triumph of coal marketing, that we are surprised at what this data shows. How come many of us didn’t already know this? I think it is fair to say that most people don’t think coal is that much of a killer, but there you have it.
Many of us even know that we consume mercury from deep-sea species of fish, yet many of us still don’t connect the dots back to coal – at least not consciously.
Having said that, it should also be acknowledged that the number of deaths attributed to nuclear accidents is a source of serious contention. For instance, this recent take-down of the nuclear power industry raises the possibility that the Chernobyl death toll was grossly underestimated by the Soviets and even the international community. Alternatively, there are also reports claiming the death toll from Chernobyl was over-estimated. It’s all quite confusing isn’t it? How are we to know how accurate the data is?