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Option One: Improved Stoves
There are simple, cheap solutions to the problem of indoor air pollution.
More than 3 billion people are exposed to household pollution. Women and young children are especially affected because they spend more time indoors, near cooking stoves using solid fuels like wood, charcoal, peat, and coal.
The answer is surprisingly simple: improved stoves with good venting of smoke and the use of alternative fuels.
For $2.3 billion in U.S. dollars, we could provide a rocket stove to half the people using unhealthy, old-fashioned stoves. A rocket stove is easy to construct, and uses low-cost materials, and cuts out the negative health effects caused by solid fuel use by a third.
The economic spin-offs from improved health would be 4.6 times higher than the costs.
Option Two: Diesel vehicle technology
In many developing countries, road vehicles are generally found to be the major source of outdoor polution, partly because of high levels of diesel use, badly maintained engine, and little or no emission control technology.
Particulate emissions from diesel vehicles can be reduced by a diesel particulate filter, a device designed to remove diesel particulate matter or soot from the exhaust gas of a diesel engine. A diesel-powered vehicle equipped with functioning filter will emit no visible smoke from its exhaust pipe. Another option is to use a chemical process to break down pollutants in the exhaust stream into less harmful components.
Diesel vehicle particulate control technology is, unfortunately, very expensive, so the benefits are very low compared to the costs.
Experience from several developing city studies shows that retrofitting older and newer diesel-fuelled buses and delivery trucks with particulate control devices has economic benefits worth only 50 cents for every $1.00 spent.
The food crisis is further increasing global political instability at a time when, according to research by Paul Collier, the risk of new civil wars is already rising. Many recently negotiated peace settlements have left nations fragile, while the commodity boom and the discovery of mineral resources in countries with weak governments have sown seeds for discord.
Since Iraq, the developed world has lost faith in using military force to reduce conflict. However, Iraq is a misleading guide to the effectiveness of intervention. Unlike the vast majority of conflicts, its civil war was sparked by an international war.
The far more typical scenario is a relapse of political violence within a small, low-income, low-growth nation already troubled by fighting. This is the real security challenge that developed nations must deal with this decade.