World Bank urges better cookstoves in developing states to curb deaths

OSLO Sun Nov 3, 2013 6:04pm EST

A woman cooks ''roti'' (Indian bread) on an earthen stove inside a farm house near the Jhajjar district in the northern Indian state of Haryana March 31, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A woman cooks ''roti'' (Indian bread) on an earthen stove inside a farm house near the Jhajjar district in the northern Indian state of Haryana March 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

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OSLO (Reuters) - (Release at 2301 GMT, Sunday Nov 3) Simple measures to reduce pollution from cooking stoves in developing nations could save a million lives a year and help slow global warming, a World Bank study showed on Monday.

Tighter restrictions on diesel emissions, for instance from car exhausts, could also avert 340,000 premature deaths annually by reining in soot and other heat-trapping pollutants that are also stoking climate change, it said.

The study called for tough limits on pollution from methane and soot, which can settle on snow and ice and hasten a thaw by darkening the surface, in everything from cooking and heating to mining and flaring by the oil and gas industry.

"The damage from indoor cooking smoke alone is horrendous - every year, four million people die from exposure to the smoke," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement of the study "on Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution can Slow Warming and Save Lives."

Many people in developing nations cook on open fires with wood or coal, exposing people - mainly women and children - to fumes that cause everything from respiratory problems to heart disease.

"If more clean cook-stoves - stoves that use less or cleaner fuel - would be used it could save one million lives," the report said of the annual benefits.


Mass produced, such stoves can cost a few dollars each.

Monday's study was co-written by the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative - the cryosphere is the world's ice, snow and permafrost from Siberia to Antarctica.

New stoves use fans to improve combustion, or less-polluting fuels such as gas from crop waste or manure.

"If we act fast and cut common pollutants like soot and methane we can slow the rate of warming...and if we did so we can save millions of lives," Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice president for sustainable development, told a telephone news conference.

Tighter controls on pollution could also boost crop growth, the report said. Plant growth can be hampered by a haze of pollution.

A 2011 U.N. study estimated that measures to limit air pollutants such as methane and soot could slow the pace of global warming by 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) by mid-century.

A study in August 2013, however, said benefits will be far less. Temperatures have risen by about 0.8 C (1.4 F) since before the Industrial Revolution.

Almost 200 nations will meet in Warsaw from November 11-22 to consider ways to combat global warming. They have agreed to work out by the end of 2015 a deal that will enter into force from 2020.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Comments (1)
patmcardle wrote:
In the referenced report, “On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives, 2013″, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is repeatedly characterized as the ‘gold standard’ for clean cooking solutions.

The extraction, processing and transport of LPG are not technically “clean”.

In all of its statistical tables, this report pairs LPG with biogas, which actually is a green cooking solution since it is produced with the methane of fermented plant and animal waste. Biogas digesters work well in humid climates but not in arid regions, where hundreds of millions of people continue to cut down their few remaining trees or collect dung for their cooking fires.

Nowhere in this study are solar thermal cookers even mentioned as a technology that could help mitigate global warming by offering a clean cooking solution to the world’s three billion poor who still cook over open fires.

Several million parabolic solar cookers are already being used in India and western China to help reduce dependence on wood, dung, charcoal, coal, kerosene and LPG. Parabolic solar cookers generate heat as fast as an open fire but with zero emissions. They work in sub-zero temperatures as long as the sun is shining.

The Shell Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy have spent millions of dollars on R&D for small biomass burning stoves, but not a penny on similar research to improve solar thermal cookstove technology. Why?

In Eastern Chad, Darfur refugee women have made and distributed tens of thousands of cardboard and aluminum foil solar CooKits, which allow families in the camps to cook up to two meals a day using only sunlight. Research is needed to make these cooking devices more durable, but no funds are available. Why?

There is an interesting caveat on page 56 of this report: “Although considered a “gold standard” technology, biogas or LPG fuel replacement (or replacement by sustainable production of ethanol, under increasing use in Africa) may not meet the needs of the rural poor. In particular, wood, dung, and grass may prove cheaper or more widely available.”

What about the most available (renewable, clean and free) energy source of all– solar thermal power, which can be captured in small inexpensive devices like the CooKit and used to cook food and heat water whenever the sun is shining?

Much of the developing world lives between 25 degrees north and south of the equator in countries where solar insolation rates are high nine or more months per year. Simple, affordable solar thermal cookers could dramatically reduce the dependence of the world’s poorest people on biomass fuel. The widespread use of solar cookers would also make a significant contribution in the reduction of black carbon.

It would be interesting to know why solar thermal cooking technology was omitted from this study?

Nov 06, 2013 2:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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