Monday, April 20, 2009

Cooking Up Black Carbon

Black Carbon Adds to Global Climate Change

Black carbon has emerged as an important No. 2 of green house gas pollutants. Recent studies estimate that black carbon is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming.  [1]

Third world stove soot is a significant contributor to green house gas pollution, with its abundance of black carbon emitted from burning wood and other organic materials.

Here at home, we also contribute by burning wood in the fireplace or barbecue. For most of us, wood-burning is a luxury rather than a necessity.

Black Carbon is Bad for Lungs

Black carbon has serious health consequences for the cook and others directly inhaling its fumes, which is often children whose developing lungs are at more risk. Black carbon produces particulate pollution, the microscopic pollutant that is sucked deep into the lungs and contributes to lung cancer and other diseases.

Particulate pollution is able to linger in the air for up to 20 days and consequently able to circumvent the globe and affect individuals far away.

How To Build A Cleaner Stove

It is an easy technical fix to switch to a clean burning stoves. Some stoves being prototyped cost in the $20 range to manufacture:
  • Use gas, although not ideal it is 2,000 times cleaner than wood burning. However, gas is usually not available in poorest areas.
  • Use solar
  • Burn less fuel - greater efficiency stoves. There are several variations on this theme, combination of gas and wood, fan, stove design. The goal is to burn more of the material and thus emit less pollution Those stoves that use less or no wood have the additional benefit of saving time used for gathering wood. In many poor areas, a mother may spend several hours a day foraging for wood and other organic materials.
  • Use filter.

How To Sell A Cleaner Stove

The health benefits to children are likely to be the most compelling to families using wood stoves rather than more vague benefit of slowing climate change.

Even so, a cleaner stove needs to overcome the preference for traditional cooking methods and the smokey taste it imparts to food.

In addition, the stoves need to be heavy-duty, easy to operate, and nearly free. In many third world areas, a worker earns less than $2 / day.


1. NY Times article: Third-World Stove Soot is Target in Climate Fight

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