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Charcoal and forest management could reduce greenhouse gas levels & save lives in Africa

aying there are multiple consequences, including preventable deaths and pollution emissions. Decisions made now or in the near future are going to have large effects on health and environmental outcomes in the distant future." The results of the study show that the best situation in Africa would be to transition from biomass fuels to petroleum-based fossil fuels such as kerosene and liquid propane gas, which can prevent between 1.3 and 3.7 million premature deaths, depending on the speed of transition. They argue, however, that current economic conditions and energy infrastructure in Africa make petroleum-based fossil fuels an unlikely option. "If you switch everyone off the dirtiest fuels to burning clean fossil fuels, you get the biggest health benefit," acknowledged Daniel Kammen, the Class of 1935 Distinguished Chair of Energy at UC Berkeley and a co-author of the paper. He continued, "But the economic cost to most African nations collectively the poorest region of the globe of that switch is impossible."

Charcoal burns cleaner and produces less indoor pollution than wood, but the current inefficient production method in Africa is one of the most polluting for the global environment and potentially destructive to African forests. Their analysis shows that charcoal can provide comparable health benefits of between 1 and 2.8 million avoided deaths. Majid Ezzati, Assistant Professor of International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the paper added "It's a lot easier to disseminate charcoal in large scale than fossil fuels, because there is a well developed market and you don't need expensive infrastructure like refineries and processing. So, even though fossil fuels are in fact better for health and better for climate, they are more expensive and a lot harder to get out."

However, scenarios that envision large shifts to charcoal without improvements in harvesting and production lead to severe increases in gre
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Contact: Kevin Myron
kmyron@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-3952
Harvard School of Public Health
31-Mar-2005


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