Third-World Cookstoves Ignite Carbon Debate

Cutting soot could slow climate change by 18%
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2009 7:48 AM CDT
An Indian cook prepares food using a charcoal stove in the kitchen of a small restaurant, in Mumbai, India.   (AP Photo/Rajesh Nirgude)
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(Newser) – A simple $20 stove may be the ticket to slowing global warming by nearly a fifth, the New York Times reports. Soot—otherwise known as black carbon—is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, and it spews from hundreds of millions of simple stoves in developing countries daily. Installing solar-powered or simply more efficient cookers would drastically reduce the emission of soot particles that both ruin villagers' health and land on glaciers thousands of miles away.

There, the particles absorb the sun's heat and cause significant melting—Himalayan glaciers are expected to shrink 75% by 2020. Scientists see the improved stoves as one of several cheap fixes that could be made while developed nations wrangle over the more difficult task of cutting carbon dioxide emissions, and a quick one at that: While CO2 lingers for years, soot only remains in the atmosphere for a few weeks. "We’re driving fast toward a cliff, and this could buy us time," said a leading climatologist.