Technology, and Environment

May 7, 2017
The balance is disturbed- be

2.12 Types of impacts

EnTA focuses on characterising potential impacts associated with outcome categories, or endpoints. The outcome categories are: Human Health Impacts, Local Natural Environment Impacts, Social and Cultural Impacts, Global Impacts, and Resource Sustainability. The performance of each technology option is evaluated using these broad categories.

Each outcome category aggregates a large amount of information associated with the environmental consequences of a technology. This approach provides a useful way to combine impacts so that different technological options can be compared against common criteria. However, it must be acknowledged that specific impacts of a technology intervention may not receive appropriately detailed or balanced attention in such an approach. Moreover, there is no simple, objective way to combine impacts.

While there are various schemes that attempt to assign relative weights to individual impacts, thus allowing them to be subsequently aggregated in a rational way, their somewhat complex and arbitrary nature make them inappropriate for use in EnTA. One objective of an EnTA is to show if more information-intensive and rigorous assessments, such as environmental risk assessment and environmental impact assessment, are necessary and justified. Such tools can provide a more rational way to aggregate impacts, resulting in increased confidence in the assessment findings.

A description of each of the outcome categories, or endpoints, is provided below.

Impacts involving human health and safety

This category focuses on the potential impacts of a technology on the health, safety and well being of the community and workers. Impacts may be associated with injury, discomfort or death. There are three main impact pathways that need to be considered in the assessment of human health and safety;

  • Communicable Diseases - Vector borne diseases (e.g. malaria), sanitary hygiene diseases, risk associated with handing of infectious wastes;
  • Injury - Risk of accidents from traffic, explosions, falls, heat stress, operation of machinery, handling of physically hazardous wastes and resources (e.g. sharps), loss of hearing; and
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals - Inhalation (e.g. air pollution), dermal contact, ingestion of contaminated food and water (e.g. pesticide residue) of hazardous chemicals and of radioactive material.

The primary focus for this category normally involves characterising the effects of chemical releases and other hazards associated with the technology. When assessing the effect of chemicals three principal questions should be asked:

  • What is the toxicity or potential hazard associated with release?
  • How much of this chemical is likely to be released either through normal operational practices or as a consequence of spills and other accidents?
  • How many people will likely be affected by the hazard?

Impacts on the local natural environment

This category focuses on the effects a technology may have on organisms, their habitats, the life supporting capacity of natural ecosystems, and on biodiversity. Of particular concern is the loss of endangered and rare plant and animal species, and destruction of endangered and limited habitats. Three principal impact pathways should be considered when assessing impacts in this category:

  • Habitat loss or alteration through land clearance (e.g. as a consequence of raw material demand or development of a site);
  • Physical disruption of habitat; for example, the construction of pipelines that inhibit the migration of animals; and
  • The chemical contamination of the environment through the release of wastes that have a direct toxic effect on flora and fauna (e.g. pesticides) or that alter the functionality of an ecosystem through such processes as eutrophication (e.g. the discharge of nutrients or other chemicals with high biological oxygen demand (BOD)) and acidification.

Global environmental impacts

This category is concerned with the impact of the technology at a global scale, typically as a cumulative impact. These impacts may or may not be associated with a significant effect on a given local ecosystem or community. Particular emphasis is placed on the release of substances that:

  • Enhance global warming (i.e. greenhouse...
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