Combating Energy Poverty and Climate Change
The problems of Energy poverty and climate change are closely intertwined and it is imperative that they be addressed together as a single issue. If the one billion people living without proper access to electricity eventually gain access through unsustainable sources like coal burning power plants our chances of mitigating the already disastrous effects of climate change will be insurmountable. Fortunately we have the technology available to avoid this costly and polluting approach. Just as rural villages throughout the developing world have benefited from the use of cell phones without ever having to rely on the outmoded technology of land lines so too can solar power and other forms of sustainable energy production cleanly and efficiently provide power to everyone in need.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
– Robert Swan
One of the biggest issues those living without electricity face is the use of kerosene for lighting at night. Kerosene lamps are significant sources of atmospheric black carbon and emit 20 times more than previous estimates, with 7-9% of fuel burned converted into black carbon particles. Kerosene lamps pose significant health impacts, due both to chronic illness resulting from inhalation of fumes and to risk of injury due to fire. There is evidence that exposure to the lamps, which are used indoors and in close proximity to people, impairs lung function and increases the risk for respiratory disease, cancer, eye problems, and infectious disease, including tuberculosis. Kerosene lamps also pose safety and fire risks. Kerosene is highly flammable and there is a high risk of accidents, burns, and even fatalities associated with lamp use. In India, 2.5 million people suffer severe burns caused by overturned kerosene lamps each year. Poor light quality from kerosene lamps, which are often the sole source of lighting after daylight, limits productivity and opportunities for studying or income-generating work. Kerosene lamps are expensive to operate. Kerosene is costly both for low income households that buy it, and for governments that subsidize it.