NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 18, 2005

African countries could save millions of lives and improve their environment if they switched from burning wood to charcoal, according to Nature.

U.S. researchers estimate that with the current trend in burning wood for fuel:

  • About 10 million children will be exposed to wood smoke from stoves by 2030, up from 400,000 children in 2000.
  • Cooking fires will emit about 6.7 billion tons of carbon into the air over the next 45 years.

Simply switching to other forms of fuel could reduce premature deaths and decrease air pollution. For example:

  • Using a petroleum-based fossil fuel, such as kerosene, would prevent about 3.7 million deaths from respiratory illness.
  • Charcoal, if produced using more efficient technologies, could avert 3 million premature deaths and reduce carbon emissions by 65 percent.

Indeed, charcoal is already the most commonly used fuel in urban areas, but its production methods are often inefficient and contribute to air pollution. However, clean and easily-implemented technologies exist, such as using brick or steel kilns with emission controls, says Nature.

Source: Jessica Ebert, "Charcoal Fuel Gets Green Light,", March 31, 2005.

For text:


Browse more articles on Environment Issues