Guest post by Indur M. Goklany
I have a new paper — Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries? — which suggests that global warming policies may be helping kill more people than it saves. It was published last month in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. Access to the paper is free.
Part of the PR notice put out by the journal is reproduced below:
Biofuels Policy May Kill 200,000 Per Year in the Third World
TUCSON, Ariz., March 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — U.S. and European policy to increase production of ethanol and other biofuels to displace fossil fuels is supposed to help human health by reducing “global warming.” Instead it has added to the global burden of death and disease.
Increased production of biofuels increases the price of food worldwide by diverting crops and cropland from feeding people to feeding motor vehicles. Higher food prices, in turn, condemn more people to chronic hunger and “absolute poverty” (defined as income less than $1.25 per day). But hunger and poverty are leading causes of premature death and excess disease worldwide. Therefore, higher biofuel production would increase death and disease.
Research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries. Using statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 excess deaths per year, plus disease resulting in the loss of 6.7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) per year. These exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming. Thus, developed world policies intended to mitigate global warming probably have increased death and disease in developing countries rather than reducing them. Goklany also notes that death and disease from poverty are a fact, whereas death and disease from global warming are hypothetical.
Thus, the biofuel remedy for global warming may be worse than the disease it purports to alleviate.
The paper also shows that based on the World Health Organization’s latest estimates of death and disease from global warming and 23 other global health risk factors (for the year 2004), global warming should be ranked last or second last, depending on whether the criterion used is the burden of disease or death.
Policies that subsidize or mandate biofuels benefit neither Mother Earth nor humanity.