Clean cookstoves are ranked #21 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions, with the ability to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15.81 gigatons by 2050. Nearly three billion households—40% of the people on earth—prepare meals over open fires fueled by wood, coal, animal dung, or agricultural refuse. Drawdown estimates that replacing these traditional methods with newer, cleaner technologies would cost US$72.16 billion, roughly $41 per stove, for a net saving of $166 billion in total operational costs over the 30-year period.
Cooking over open flames accounts for between 2% and 5% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon dioxide isn’t the only harmful emission produced by traditional cooking methods: methane, carbon monoxide, and black carbon are also released during incomplete combustion. Black carbon, which gives soot its dark colour, is an important target because it dissipates in the atmosphere faster than CO2, so eliminating it would result in a quick, dramatic cooling effect—crucial to preserving rapidly shrinking ice caps in Arctic regions.
Drawdown notes that “17% of the world’s black carbon comes from biomass-based cooking, and reducing this value to almost zero by replacing solid fuel-burning stoves with renewable fuel stoves is a huge step towards drawdown.”
Clean cookstoves also save lives. In many parts of the world, food is prepared in homes and kitchen areas without adequate ventilation. Inhaling the smoke and soot leads to 4.3 million premature deaths every year.“In India, it was estimated that the dissemination of 150 million clean cookstoves over 10 years could help avoid 2.2 million premature deaths due to household air pollution in the country, and that the reduction in health burden in 2020 (measured in lost healthy life years) would be equivalent to about half the total national cancer burden projected that year,” the summary states.