The solution is natural | Audience

In 2020, one of the brightest minds in science left. Kirk Smith, Nobel laureate and professor of global environmental health at UC Berkeley, has died at the age of 73. His colleague John Balmes, a global respiratory health expert, said of his work: “Nobody saved more lives. He was a true hero.”

One of the most recognized environmentalists, Smith began his career as an opponent of nuclear power. A trip to Asia in 1970 made him realize that air pollution was a bigger threat than nuclear accidents. Smith coined the phrase: “If you really want to contribute, track real risk.”

Based on the work of Professor Smith, who devoted his life to documenting air pollution, the World Health Organization today blames household pollution from fine particulate matter for one in eight deaths globally, more than tobacco, diabetes and car accidents.

It is a leading cause of death: 3.7 million girls, women and children die prematurely each year from respiratory and cardiovascular problems. It is responsible for 40% of deaths from pneumonia in children under 5 years of age. Its health impact is estimated at $1.4 trillion, four times the GDP of Colombia.

A total of 2.3 billion people in 128 countries cook with firewood, resulting in high CO2 emissions, deforestation, threatened ecosystems and loss of biodiversity. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it causes forest loss the size of Ireland every year, and ending it would save 1.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions of all the world’s planes and ships last year quantity.

That’s why it’s included in the Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 7, to achieve universal clean cooking by 2030. Only China, India and Indonesia are on track to achieve this goal. To do so will cost $8 billion a year, less than 1% of government subsidized petrol and diesel spending in 2022.

In Colombia, firewood substitution programs are incorporated into national development plans and must be regulated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The challenge is to replace firewood and charcoal for cooking in at least 1.6 million Colombian households (five million compatriots, almost twice the population of Uruguay).

When firewood is replaced by natural gas, time is freed: an average of five hours a day are spent collecting firewood, mostly by women.

In 2022, news of a study led by Talor Gruenwald, a researcher at the NGO Rocky Mountain Institute, showed that gas stoves increased the incidence of childhood asthma by 12.7%, and the news spread worldwide. spread and resonated in Colombia.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute corrected this information to show that states like California, with the highest prevalence of natural gas stoves, had lower rates of asthma among children and true asthma-related variables are household income level and race.

As a result, the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA) classify natural gas stoves as clean and high-performing in terms of health, efficiency and positive impact on women because they reduce the risk of gender-based violence during cooking. .

Natural gas can have a positive impact on the country’s social and production transformation goals. Its recognized environmental attributes such as low cost compared with other hydrocarbons remind us that just as abundant and clean energy represents life, its absence means deprivation and death.

* President of a natural gas company

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