Tempest in a Cookstove
It sounds too innocent to be lethal. But cooking a simple meal creates indoor air pollution that is deadly. It kills an estimated 4 million people per year — more than HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined — and sickens millions more. It disproportionately affects women. And about 3 billion people, some 40 percent of the people on earth, are at risk.
The good news? A simple, cost-effective solution already exists: clean cookstoves. Unlike the rudimentary heating schemes that many of the world’s women rely on (think three stones and a fire), clean cookstoves emit less or none of the smoke that causes asthma, pulmonary disease and pneumonia. Widespread use also has environmental benefits, including reduced carbon emissions and deforestation.
Clean cookstoves are just the kind of thing that policymakers love: a simple-sounding solution to a tangle of interrelated problems. And so, in recent years, a movement has coalesced around clean cookstoves and the nifty no-brainer that cooking shouldn’t kill. In 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lent her imprimatur. She marshaled millions of dollars to establish the Global Alliance on Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership that aims to bring clean cookstoves to 100 million households by 2020. Manufacturers saw a potential market as big as 500 million households. Julia Roberts joined as celebrity spokesperson. Since then, the alliance has driven some $35 million in investment into clean cookstoves, and manufacturing of clean cookstoves has doubled, to nearly 10 million, in the past year.