Burning biomass fuels climate stupidity

Andrew L. Urban

Some of us have always known that climate hysteria causes malfunctions in the brain. (The precise medical term is ‘Subject Specific Stupidity Syndrome’.) Here are a couple of examples confirming this, both from just one week in July. What stands out in the first example is that any reasonable, well informed person would know that burning biomass does not reduce the emissions that alarmists are trying to reduce. It is counterproductive to their own objectives, however misguided or uninformed those are. 

This first example is from Le Monde:

July 5, 2022 Le Monde

Three scientists, Denis Couvet, Wolfgang Cramer and Timothy D. Searchinger, warn about the European Union’s climate policy, which intends to devote one-fifth of cultivated land to bioenergy and to increase wood imports. “Burning biomass releases more carbon (they mean carbon dioxide) than burning fossil fuels…” Duh!

The obsessive but unscientific demonisation of fossil fuel emissions is a stupidity that does great harm. That, too, is well known, even by the World Health Organisation. On the same day that Le Monde reported how biomass was not the answer alarmists were looking for, Nature published a piece that shows the serious threat to life caused by the burning of biomass instead of really clean fuel, among the poor in India, for example:

July 5, 2022 Nature   Vijaya Ramachandran

“If you want to learn how dangerous cooking can be, ask my cousin. When she was three, growing up in the small town of Saram, India, she knocked over her mother’s kerosene stove, scalding herself badly. Her face was scarred for the rest of her life.

The dangers of some fuels aren’t always so obvious. About 2.6 billion people, mostly in lower-income countries, experience energy poverty — the lack of access to clean fuels — and cook on open fires or stoves using kerosene, coal, wood, animal waste or other forms of biomass.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.8 million people die prematurely each year from illnesses linked to household air pollution, often caused by these fuels. Cooking with biomass results in more deaths than tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. I study solutions to energy poverty in my job as the director for energy and development at the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental-research centre in Berkeley, California. I often think of my cousin — how, even if she hadn’t knocked over that burner, it would still be harming her.

The impact of these fuel sources is especially dire for women and girls because they do most of the cooking and household chores. A study in India found that women are more likely to develop health conditions due to indoor air pollution during cooking; and poorer and less educated women are more likely to develop them than are their better-off counterparts.

burning biomass

Women lose time, security and income because they must gather fuel; girls who might otherwise go to school go out to collect wood or cow pats.

That the responsibility of cooking falls heavily on women is already misogyny; an added insult is the public-health crisis linked to that chore in many low-income countries.

Millions of women have been protected by turning to cleaner fuels, in particular liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), prepared from refined petroleum. For now, LPG cooking stoves are probably the cleanest, most scalable solution to improve the health of women and reduce deaths from indoor air pollution in poor countries.

But LPG is a fossil fuel and, although it has few local effects on air quality, it does emit greenhouse gases when burnt. European countries such as Germany — a major consumer of coal and natural gas — and Norway, one of the world’s largest exporters of natural gas, are seeking to ban the financing of all fossil-fuel projects in low- and middle-income countries entirely. This puritanical, one-size-fits-all approach is bad for the climate and overwhelmingly leaves women breathing in dangerous smoke from dirty cooking fuels. The West needs to get a grip and devise a more sensible strategy to solve this public-health crisis.

Last month, the United Nations published a report on the progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG7 (see go.nature.com/3y6i), which aims to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. It makes clear that the world is falling far short of the investments necessary to reach this goal. About US$4.5 billion a year is needed to achieve universal access to clean fuels for cooking (this estimate includes supplying infrastructure, such as LPG stoves). Rich countries have so far coughed up about $130 million a year.

Pious, performative, broad-brush bans on fossil fuels help no one. A more intelligent, data-led approach is needed to better protect the climate alongside vulnerable people in developing nations.”

“A more intelligent…” or less stupid approach, we might suggest. But caught in the vortex of climate hysteria, some people forget an important lesson from history, as extracts from the following article demonstrates. It is worth reading the whole article.

July 12 Persuasion  Isaac Saul

“At various times throughout the history of humankind, our most brilliant scientists and philosophers believed many things most eight-year-olds now know to be false: the earth was flat, the sun revolved around the earth, smoking cigarettes was good for digestion, humans were not related to apes, the planet was 75,000 years old, or left-handed people were unclean.

Around 100 years ago, doctors still thought bloodletting (that is, using leeches or a lancet to address infections) was useful in curing a patient. The idea that the universe was bigger than the Milky Way was unfathomable, and the fact the earth had tectonic plates that moved beneath our feet was yet to be discovered.

Social media companies and creator platforms like YouTube have attempted to root out “Covid-19 misinformation” from their ranks. More infamously, during the 2020 election, Twitter and Facebook both throttled the sharing of a salacious story by the New York Post about a laptop Hunter Biden left at a repair store that was filled with incriminating texts and images on the ground that it was hacked material or a Russian disinformation campaign. As it turned out, the story was true as the Post had reported it.

… the media needs to change its posture toward things reporters believe to be false. For years, many journalists have taken to the idea that ignoring misinformation is the way to beat it—that addressing it in any way simply “gives oxygen” or “spreads” the fire. But what the press needs is more honest and open-minded coverage of so-called misinformation that allows people to put down their weapons and hear you out. The problem is that when the people who believe something are the only ones talking about it, there are no skeptical voices in the room, and then certain hypotheses never face honest scrutiny.”

Amen to that, say those who know about burning biomass and do not subscribe to the ruling orthodoxy on ‘climate change’.

Andrew L. Urban is the author of CLIMATE ALARM REALITY CHECK (Wilkinson Publishing), coming soon.



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4 Responses to Burning biomass fuels climate stupidity

  1. Garry Stannus says:

    The EU 27Jan2021 Report The use of woody biomass for energy production in the EU and impacts on forests The use of woody biomass for energy production in the EU can be accessed here: https://op.europa.eu/o/opportal-service/download-handler?identifier=7120db75-6118-11eb-8146-01aa75ed71a1&format=pdf&language=en&productionSystem=cellar&part=

    In May 2022, the EU Europe Rethinks Its Reliance on Burning Wood for Electricity: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/climate/eu-burning-wood-electricity.html

    Other solutions?
    On the other hand, I should point out burning biomass isn’t necessarily best illustrated by a photo of a rude Indian kitchen, a kitchen without a flue, without a cooking plate and so forth. Maybe Andrew, the answer is not in LPG, but rather in reducing populations, reducing (where applicable) consumption, utilising other forms of energy ( wind, solar, water). I also note that wood stoves exist (I have one) that are seemingly relatively clean and efficient. Also, in place of the posited misogny of India, I note the misandrist culture of Oz, there typically it is the male who has to be out there in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, felling, cutting, splitting, loading and bringing logs back to the home, storing it, keeping it dry, further splitting it – some down to kindling size. (I make those ‘misandry’ remarks in a cheerful spirit, and not in a serious manner.)

    Let me conclude by saying that I’m open to being convinced to the contrary, but that it does seem to me that a change in our climate is occurring. I am not convinced that anthropomorphic factors are not at play: I would like ‘climate sceptics’ to provide a clear account as to why (for example) Britain has just had its hottest recorded temperature ever and as to why our polar regions and glaciers are melting. In my view it is simply not good enough to refer to ‘climate hysteria’ and supply a few references which on examination do not contain clear, scientific and scholarly information.

    • andrew says:

      This is the most consequential issue of our time. I am grateful that you have contributed your opinions, which are representative of the ruling orthodoxy and what many people think. Your final sentence is especially relevant – and applies equally to the claims by world leaders (eg Joe Biden just yesterday, Anthony Albenese the other day) saying we are experiencing a climate emergency.

      As it happens, after a decade of investigative reporting on the subject, I have written a book in which dedicated climate scientists answer your calls for facts, all with citations and references. CLIMATE ALARM REALITY CHECK (Wilkinson Publishing) will be available in time for the next international climate conference, COP27 held in Egypt in early November. None of the scientists ‘deny’ that mild warming has occurred …BUT….the claim that it is caused by fossil fuels is just plain wrong. Conflating warming with fossil fuels was the ‘original sin’ in the establishment of the IPCC; that was a political agenda, not a scientific fact.

      From the book: “The Earth’s climate has been changing for billions of years before man came along and burnt fossil fuels. Those changes were not driven by carbon dioxide. Man-made emissions make up just 0.012% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; why is that undisputed fact never relayed to the public square?

      “There is plenty of evidence about historical changes in the planet’s climate, going back over 4 billion years – somewhat prior to the presence of man-made emissions. Propaganda has convinced many that carbon dioxide, a life source, is a dangerous pollutant in the atmosphere. … It has never been shown that this drives global warming.” CO2 makes up 0.04% of our atmosphere. Anyone aware of these facts would surely scrutinise the claims and the hysteria about emissions.

      My book does exactly what you ask for: supplies clear, scientific and scholarly information. I hope policy makers will take note and children will be reassured. We are not burning the planet. As Dr Judith Curry, one of the scientists says, “We have been told that climate change is an ‘existential crisis.’ However, based upon our current assessment of the science, the climate threat is not an existential one, even in its most alarming hypothetical incarnations.”

      On its publication, I will provide more info and a link for anyone wishing to read it.

  2. Peter versi says:

    All sorts of things reduce emissions . No more Viking funerals burning the body and the boat. No more witches burnt at the steak. No more hot cars going for a burn. No burning ambition . No more getting burnt on the stock exchange. As you get older no more carpet burns .!!! Due to security cameras proliferation …there’s no arson around …..read that as you will. No more carrying a torch . I lost because my competitor was on fire ……not permitted .. is a bitch on heat causing climate change . Can’t FIRE anyone. She doesn’t hold a candle. … no more. No more John Wick sequels unless Wick not lit. Can’t play for the ashes …something was burnt to create them .burner phones,no more ! No more methane. …. What’s brown , steaming and comes out of cowes ? The Isle of White Ferry. No not a fart ! Enjoy! Peter versi.

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