Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Benefits of Replacing Old Biomass Cook Stoves

Woman sitting beside newer, cleaner cook stove. Photo courtesy: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / UC San Diego/CC BY 2.0

If you need a very concrete example of how ending energy poverty has very tangible immediate effects on people's lives, check out this story from UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) about how switching to more efficient cook stoves (like the one shown above, in India).

TreeHugger has covered how switching to these newer cooking stoves means better health and less emissions for all concerned. With the updated cook stoves, less pollution also means less fuel being used.

Here are some links to help promote understanding of the new cook stove program; and, the wonderful effects it produces.

Efficient Cook Stove Movement Faces Diverging Approaches; Bringing 5 Million Rocket Stoves To Women Worldwide: The Paradigm Project; US Leads Program to Cut Black Carbon Soot; and, finally, Reducing Black Carbon Soot Would Slash Arctic Warming Two-Thirds by 2030, Cut Temp Rise by 0.5C.

Here's the gist of the effect of UNDP and Peru's Ministry of Energy & Mining distributing 25,000 cleaner cook stoves—with another 125,000 planned:
In Ayacucho, Pilar and other people who have received the new cook stoves are already benefiting from cleaner indoor air. They no longer suffer from smoke bothering their eyes while they cook. Since they now need to collect much less firewood every day, they have more time to help their children with homework and they are free to dedicate part of their time to other income-generating activities.

“With the implementation of the improved cook stove programme, La Libertad region will avoid the emission of 41,000 tonnes of CO² a year,” said José Murgia Zannier, the region’s president.
UNDP's Stephen Gitonga notes, "The project is an excellent contribution to all strands of sustainable development [social, economic, environmental]. It empowers and liberates women and girls because they need to collect less firewood. The cook stoves improve public health because they eliminate "kitchen smoke” which kills two million people in the world every year. Improved public health is equal to a higher quality of life, more productivity and fewer expenses on health care. In addition to that, to manufacture, install, transport, repair and service the new stoves create jobs.”

I'll add another benefit, the reduction of black carbon soot. Though it's technically not a gas, black carbon soot is a powerful component of global warming. It traps heat in the atmosphere—and when it falls onto highly reflective surfaces like glaciers, it accelerates how fast they melt. Switching to cleaner burning cook stoves, and phasing out older, dirtier diesel engines, can quickly reducing black carbon soot emissions and quickly reduce the additional warming the create due to the fact that the soot falls out of the atmosphere quickly once the source is removed.

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