Cooking and Climate Change
The Impacts of Climate Change
Climate change is a critical challenge facing humanity. According to the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, rising global temperatures will very likely increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall events, adversely affecting agriculture, forests, water resources, human health and settlements. These events will impact many people around the world, and will disproportionately affect the poor in developing countries.
Inefficient Cooking Contributes to Climate Change
Nearly three billion people around the world burn coal or solid biomass (including wood, charcoal, agricultural waste, and animal dung) in open fires or inefficient stoves for daily cooking and heating. In addition to the health burden from smoke inhalation, burning solid fuels releases emissions of some of the most important contributors to global climate change: carbon dioxide, methane and other ozone producing gases such as carbon monoxide, as well as short-lived but very efficient sunlight-absorbing particles like black carbon and brown carbon. Unsustainable wood harvesting also contributes to deforestation, reducing carbon uptake by forests.
Residential solid fuel burning accounts for 25% of global black carbon emissions, about 84% of which is from households in developing countries. In South Asia for example, where more than half of black carbon particles come from cookstoves, black carbon also disrupts the monsoon and accelerates melting of the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers. As a result, water availability and food security are threatened for millions of people. These problems are compounded by crop damage from ozone produced in part by cookstove emissions and from surface dimming, as airborne black carbon intercepts sunlight.
Clean cooking can help address climate change
Many of today’s more efficient cookstoves have been shown to reduce fuel use by 30-60%, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and reduced impacts on forests, habitats, and biodiversity. Recent evidence also demonstrates that advanced (efficient and low emission) cookstoves and fuels can reduce black carbon emissions by 50-90%. Since the atmospheric lifetime of black carbon is only a few days, reducing black carbon would bring about a more rapid climate response than reductions in carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases alone.
Studies show that controlling both short-lived climate pollutants and long-lived greenhouse gases can increase the chances of limiting global temperature rise to below 2° C, a long-term international goal for avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change. In a series of recent reports, the United Nations Environment Programme emphasized the importance of introducing clean-burning biomass cookstoves and substituting traditional cookstoves with those that use modern fuels to mitigate climate change and improve air quality simultaneously.
According to a 2013 report by the Stockholm Environment Institute, the global potential for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions from improved cookstove projects is estimated at 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.