Not all connections between third world poverty and climate change are negative.
We’ve all read our share of reports on the devastating impact that climate change will have on the developing world. These include drought and famine in some areas, flooding and displacement in others, and the spread of some really nasty diseases such as dengue fever.
But concern over growing greenhouse gas emissions, and the ‘what if’ scenario of greater affluence in struggling populations is motivating many in government, NGOs, and the private sector to tackle both climate change and development more holistically. Can the fight against climate change be a tool for development?
While I was trawling around the Sustainable Brands show on the West Coast earlier this month learning about the marketing of solar power in making potato chips, a slightly more enlightened group met privately on the East Coast at a forum sponsored by Cornell University’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, to discuss the “great convergence” between clean technology and sustainable development.
I certainly hope we see more (and more open) conversation on the topic. Where power grids are not yet ubiquitous (and typically built on coal power), why don’t we just leapfrog the ‘old way’ and go directly to clean and decentralized energy, to bring the benefits of connectivity without the environmental costs? Where we see dirty, inefficient processes such as kerosene used for indoor lighting, or native firewood for cooking, why don’t we convert to cleaner and healthier options such as solar, wind, biomass, or geothermal? These fabulous solutions improve lives and reduce emissions.
The answer is wrapped up in politics, financial clout, and even world bank influence. Like many things, it all comes down to money. When I hear criticism of carbon offsetting (particularly as morally questionable) I usually reference these dual-purpose projects. ClimatePath features several, and will be adding more. Many women in sub-Saharan Africa spend hours each day gathering firewood, for the privilege of being expose to lung problems related to smoke inhalation. Why not measure the carbon saved by switching to a more efficient stove? Personal conservation is personal responsibility. But we all use some energy, and perhaps can invest some of our clean tech dollars where they can have dual impact.
Photo copyright enricod at flickr.com.