Handmade Solar Cookers: Mitigation Starts at Home

A solar cooker is “a device which uses the energy of sunlight to heat food or drink to cook it or sterilize it.”  Solar Cookers International (SCK) was founded in 1987 in the Central Valley of California. SCK started by pooling its knowledge to produce “solar cooking manuals to help others build and use simple solar box cookers similar to those developed in the mi-1970s by Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole.” solar-cooking-1

Solar cooking can improve health by preventing dirty cooking, which produces air pollution causing major health problems like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, and respiratory tract infections.

In Tanzania, a group of women who used solar cooking for 10 months saw their health problems from smoke decrease from 77% down to 13%. Equally important, it can also reduce cooking expenses. “The sun is free”, so as soon as a person, family or enterprise has access to solar technology, they are saving what they are supposed to invest in cooking with fossil fuel.

In addition, SCK has training sessions that promotes and provides training in use and construction of solar cookers, which can reduce cooking expenses even more. It can also prevent deforestation by reducing demand for charcoal made from wood.

SCK uses the acronym “CARES” to describe the solar cooking process.“C” is the collection of the energy through reflectors on a solar a cooker. “A” stands for absorbing solar energy through black cookware. “R” means retaining the heat to use it for cooking, rather than losing it tothe ambient air. “E” means efficient and easy, while “S” indicates safety. There are three types of solar cooking that use this process: (1) reflective panel cooker (2) solar box ovens and (3) parabolic reflector.

SCK expressed that the principal reason for attending COP23 is to make more people aware about the environmental and health benefits of solar cooking. Only a quarter of the Parties include cooking in their climate change plans and only two mentioned solar cooking as a mechanism to achieve the target of their NDCs. The challenge is to help Parties realize that solar cooking and clean cooking are mechanisms for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.01b549f334a66d8601e0468ce0334fc6_f728

So, can solar cooking improve the Paris Agreement implementation? The answer is yes. Encouraging the use of solar cooking in homes, business establishments, and schools would: (1) reduce environmental harms like deforestation, (2) improve health reducing smoking effects, and (3) reduce fossil fuel investments.

The public health crisis that is climate change

lancet 2017The Lancet, the leading global health journal, just came out with a searing report on how climate change affects public health. “Climate change is happening, and it’s a health issue today for millions worldwide,” said Anthony Costello, a co-chairman of the commission that produced the report.

Based on research done at 26 universities and intergovernmental organizations around the world, the Lancet report notes that atmospheric CO2 was at an all time high in 2016, reaching a concentration not seen for more than 3 million years, that has caused:

  • 306 weather-related disasters per year between 2007 to 2016 – a 46% increase since 2000
  • the forced migration of at least 4,400 people
  • an estimated 5.3% decrease in work productivity for people doing manual labor from 2000 to 2016 due to increasing temperatures (productivity fell 2% just from 2015 to 2016)

The Lancet’s health impacts of CCreport is exhaustive, addressing impacts and exposures, mitigation and adaptation, finance and economics, and public and political engagement.  And it’s timely too: for the first time in the UNFCCC negotiations, there will be a high-level event on “Health Actions for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement” at COP23, hosted by the Fiji presidency on Sunday, November 12 in the Bonn Zone.  As a vulnerable low-lying island state, Fiji’s leaders know climate change’s public health impacts all too well.

As Jeff Nesbit, former director of legislative and public affairs at the National Science Foundation during both the Obama and Bush administrations, observed in his NYT op-ed yesterday entitled Climate Change is Bad for Your Health, “This is now a medical and public health fight, not just an environmental one.”