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Study of energy and health in Africa focuses spotlight on charcoal and forest management

because there is a well developed market and you don't need expensive infrastructure like refineries and processing. So, while fossil fuels are in fact better for health and better for climate, they are more expensive and a lot harder to get out."

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. The researchers' analysis shows that charcoal can provide comparable health benefits of 1 to 2.8 million avoided deaths. However, scenarios that forecast large shifts to charcoal without improvements in harvesting and production would lead to severe increases in greenhouse gas emissions, they said, with over 15 billion tons of carbon released into the atmosphere by 2050.

"Most charcoal is produced in Africa by one or two guys going out in the woods, almost always without a permit and on somebody else's land, cutting down a tree or two, chopping it up, lighting it, covering it with dirt, and then hovering around it for two to four days while it becomes charcoal," Kammen said. "It's no surprise it's not generally a high-efficiency operation."

The authors found that by creating the technological and policy tools for transitioning to higher efficiency charcoal production technologies and sustainable harvesting, like those used today in countries such as Brazil and Thailand, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 45 percent in a gradual transition scenario, and by 66 percent in a rapid transition case.

"This study shows that choosing energy technologies with an eye toward improving health and quality of life in one of the world's most impoverished areas offers us opportunity to significantly reduce premature deaths, especially among women and children," said Ezzati.


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Source:University of California - Berkeley


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