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The World’s Safest and Deadliest Sources of Energy

  • Fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas, contribute to over 60% of the world's energy production and are the top greenhouse gas emitters.
  • Air pollution and accidents from fossil fuel-based energy sources lead to significant human casualties, with coal responsible for 25 deaths per terawatt-hour.
  • Wind, solar, and nuclear energy emerge as the safest options, with fewer than 0.1 annual deaths per terawatt-hour, challenging common perceptions about the safety of nuclear energy.

Recent conversations about climate change, emissions, and health have put a spotlight on the world’s energy sources.

As of 2021, nearly 90% of global CO? emissions came from fossil fuels. But energy production doesn’t just lead to carbon emissions, it can also cause accidents and air pollution that have a significant toll on human life.

Visual Capitalist's Freny Fernandes introduces this graphic by Ruben Mathisen, which uses data from Our World in Data to help visualize exactly how safe or deadly these energy sources are.


Fossil Fuels are the Highest Emitters

All energy sources today produce greenhouse gases either directly or indirectly. However, the top three GHG-emitting energy sources are all fossil fuels.

Coal produces 820 tonnes of CO? equivalent (CO?e) per gigawatt-hour. Not far behind is oil, which produces 720 tonnes CO?e per gigawatt-hour. Meanwhile, natural gas produces 490 tonnes of CO?e per gigawatt-hour.

These three sources contribute to over 60% of the world’s energy production.

Deadly Effects

Generating energy at a massive scale can have other side effects, like air pollution or accidents that take human lives.


According to Our World in Data, air pollution and accidents from mining and burning coal fuels account for around 25 deaths per terawatt-hour of electricity—roughly the amount consumed by about 150,000 EU citizens in one year. The same measurement sees oil responsible for 18 annual deaths, and natural gas causing three annual deaths.

Meanwhile, hydropower, which is the most widely used renewable energy source, causes one annual death per 150,000 people. The safest energy sources by far are wind, solar, and nuclear energy at fewer than 0.1 annual deaths per terawatt-hour.


Nuclear energy, because of the sheer volume of electricity generated and the low amount of associated deaths, is one of the world’s safest energy sources, despite common perceptions.

By Zerohedge.com

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on December 06 2023 said:
    Yet the safest energy sources,namely the renewables are incapable on their own of satisfying global energy needs whilst the more dangerous sources namely fossil fuels are the ones that keep the global economy ticking.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert
  • bill vickers on December 07 2023 said:
    You have not accounted for the coal use to create the infrastructure for the renewables and the renewable tools themselves. what you state is untrue. Also if you think atomic energy does not cause deaths go ask AECL oor Workers Compensation of Ontario. If they are honest your number must change. Additionally add in the number of deaths endured as the Hydro systems were implemented.

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