Climate Change vs. Energy Poverty

Which One Has Killed More People?

November 13th, 2017 | R. Rados

There is no way to determine how many people anthropogenic climate change has killed. Scientists can't agree on whether a hurricane, tornado or forest fire is directly connected to man-made climate change, or whether these things are parts of natural weather cycles. There is only ever speculation and alarmism on social media—never any real evidence. Now compare that to people who have died as a result of energy poverty. Unlike deaths caused by anthropogenic climate change, deaths caused by energy poverty can be measured.

If you ask a climate zealot how many people have been killed by climate change, they'll say something like, “billions and stuff.” However, you can be assured that any number they give you is totally made up. They have no numbers and neither do scientists. To keep the threat real and scary, climate scientists will tell us that climate change “will kill” millions and millions of people in the future "if" we don't do something now. This makes up for the total lack of hard numbers that exist to prove the real devastation of anthropogenic climate change in real time.

When it comes to global energy poverty, scientists have numbers, facts and statistics. To help back that up, here is a map showing how many people have access to electricity. The areas in dark blue represent regions where only 0-20% of the population has access to electricity.

If you're unaware of how water gets to the faucets in your home, you might be unaware of how important electricity is in the whole process. Before the water can even be pressurized and pumped to your house, it needs to be treated to ensure it remains potable. This, like the pumping process, requires energy. Furthermore, unless you enjoy taking ice-cold baths and showers to keep clean, electricity plays a huge role in heating your water.

None of this seems like rocket science to anyone, but when it comes to climate zealots, the concepts of energy poverty and death seem hard to understand. Energy poverty in Africa and parts of Asia make it impossible to provide potable water, food and heat to people who need it. This lack of electricity kills millions of people per year around the world. Because solar and wind power are expensive and inefficient, countries in Africa and Asia can't afford to live by the standards that rich, spoiled green activists from North America have set for them.

Why You Really Pay Carbon Taxes

Before we get into how energy poverty actually kills people, it's important to understand the mentality of the climate change movement. According to climate zealots at the United Nations, the responsibility of providing green alternatives to developing nations falls on the shoulders of wealthier nations. This is why we see Canada and the United States funnelling billions to African countries to pursue green alternatives. The only problem is, we've provided billions to countries in Africa and Asia since 2010 and achieved next to nothing. Nobody knows where the money goes or how it gets spent, while energy poverty continues to grow across Africa with little progress toward “green” alternatives. Essentially, African countries are falling deeper into energy poverty while the rest of us pay more for their almost non-existent progress toward sustainable, green alternatives.

As an example of this, we can look at Zimbabwe. According to the country's officials, over 100,000 homes have been fitted with solar panels. This is definitely a good thing, no matter which side you're on, but there are factors that are driving Zimbabwe's levels of energy poverty higher—despite the rising use of solar energy. Drought and population growth are two of those factors. If you're a climate zealot, you'll say, “See! Drought...because of climate change!” But, you should hold your horses. Drought has been an issue in sub-Saharan Africa and Zimbabwe for more than 200 years. Drought is nothing new in Africa and it dates back much further than the industrial revolution. That's just a fact.

In 1986, Charles Ballard authored “Drought And Economic Distress: South Africa In The 1800s” in The Journal Of Interdisciplinary History, in which he wrote:

Drought has been cited as a prime catalyst in contributing to significant historical changes, particularly on the African continent. The intervention of climate appears to have had a stressful impact on the northern Nguni people of southeastern Africa in the early nineteenth century. The process of state formation among the various chiefdoms accelerated at a time of severe and prolonged drought. Indeed, climatic stress may have been one of the primary catalysts for the social revolution that produced the Zulu Kingdom under Shaka.

For reference, Shaka took power in 1818.

In 2017, there is hydro electricity in Zimbabwe—but, in a nation that has been historically stricken by prolonged droughts, the scarcity of electricity is no surprise. The growth of solar energy in Zimbabwe is having trouble keeping up with demand, which hasn't moved the markers of energy poverty in a meaningful or progressive direction. With climate zealots in Canada trying to shut down pipelines that would ship affordable bitumen to developing countries, it's unlikely that African countries will have access to more cheap fossil fuels anytime soon.

There's no doubt that the efficiency and affordability of bitumen and coal could speed up Africa's progress toward prosperity, but under the regime of the United Nations and the North American green movement, we won't see that happen. Zimbabwe hasn't built a new coal power station since 1987, despite there being a global abundance of cheap coal. This is because countries like Zimbabwe are offered billions to focus on solar.

With faster progress toward prosperity, Africa would undoubtedly see increases in education. Education has had a statistical correlation with lower birthrates, meaning that countries like Zimbabwe could naturally see slower native population growth with the spread of education and the economic prosperity that comes with it. If you do the math, this seems like a more reasonable long-term path to sustainability than our current, snail-like plan to make Africa green. The current plan relies heavily on letting millions of people die in the name of an unattainable, green pipe dream. To top it off, it's costing us billions.

Health And Education Need Energy

Every doctor on Earth would agree that it's difficult to stitch a wound or operate on a patient in the dark. Again, this isn't rocket science, but it's a reality in places like Africa and southern Asia. Containing deadly pathogens like Ebola has already posed a serious problem in parts of Africa where 90% of people have no access to electricity. In countries like Guinea, barely 2% of schools and clinics have electricity and only a fifth of the whole population has access to electricity.

The documentary film, Black Out takes us right into Guinea and explores the problems people face and the impacts energy poverty has on education and health. You can watch the trailer for the film here.

Most Canadians and Americans have no idea what it's like to live without electricity. In countries like Guinea, students have to trek for miles to find light in order to study for exams. Families burn animal feces, dead grass and wood to heat their stoves and cook their food. At night, like any desert, sub-Saharan Africa gets pretty cold.

The indoor burning of wood, grass and shit has been attributed to scores of health problems, mostly among women—as they're the ones who spend the most time indoors cooking for their families in developing countries.

Studies on the affects of indoor pollution caused by the burning of biomass:

The effects on health due to long exposure to the smoke of indoor biomass burning have been associated to acute respiratory infections in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumoconiosis, cataract and blindness, pulmonary tuberculosis and adverse effects to pregnancy. All of these effects have been well studied in developing countries, where women and their children cook for long periods of time on wood-burning stoves without air openings to drive the smoke outwards. While developed countries mainly associate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with cigarette smoking, in the developing regions, where women cigarette smokers are less frequent, cross-sectional epidemiological and control-case studies suggest that exposure to smoke from biomass burning is the number one cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Padmavati et al (17, 18) from India, have shown the relationship between exposure to indoor pollutants and COPD, which may lead to cor pulmonale. These studies show that the Indian incidence rate of chronic cor pulmonale is similar between men and women even though 75% of men, as compared to only 15% of women, smoke. Analysis comparing the incidence of chronic cor pulmonale in men and women demonstrate that the pathology is more common among young women, the average age for women being between 10 to 15 years under those of the male sex.

In countries like Guinea, HIV, Malaria and Ebola have wreaked havoc. Since only one fifth of the country's population has access to electricity, we can safely credit energy poverty for being the root cause of Guinea's inability to tackle its health problems. A lack of education when it comes to sex—among other things—can also be attributed to the lack of electricity used to power schools and basic institutions. Furthermore, people are less likely to bother with school when they're sick and hungry.

Electricity is used in most highly developed countries, like Canada, to pump and transport clean, drinkable water to households. In countries where 90% of the population has no access to electricity, a majority of the people also lack access to potable water. This isn't a random coincidence. In dry places like southern Saskatchewan, there would likely be similar water shortages and limits to potable water in the absence of electricity. However, because of North America's abundance of electricity, dry municipalities in Saskatchewan, New Mexico and Arizona have fresh, treated water pumped directly to them from other locations. This is not the case in most south African countries.

Without clean water, heat and electricity, it's impossible to have an efficient healthcare system to deal with flu outbreaks, let alone Malaria and Ebola. When a country has no electricity to fuel healthcare or education, it shouldn't be expected to thrive economically.  

Economic Prosperity And Sustainability Require Energy

At the rate in which Africa's population is growing, combined with the inefficiency and high cost of solar power, there is no way that African countries will ever become sustainable and prosperous using the current global strategy. For African countries to prosper, their energy supplies will need to meet their demands—which isn't happening. In fact, the gap is growing wider and the need for energy is significantly outpacing availability and production. The current green strategy isn't working.

The current global strategy involves sending billions worth of funding to African countries to incentivize green energy, meanwhile billions more are spent on building schools and hospitals that probably won't have enough electricity. The current strategy doesn't seem to be working and Africa is falling further and further into energy poverty. At this point, it might seem more feasible to dramatically increase oil production to further drive down prices while investing billions in coal and oil power stations across Africa. On a much shorter timeline, Africa might be able drive down its own population growth, increase its economic prosperity and eventually fund its own sustainable, green energy initiatives.

But, according to climate alarmists, we can't risk increasing global emissions. It's better to just let the one billion people currently living in energy poverty suffer while the rest of us virtue signal and preen about our environmental stewardship.

The second biggest problem with energy poverty is its affects on economic progress. We've seen how useless and inefficient schools and hospitals are without electricity, so now imagine how useless and inefficient local grocery stores, hardware stores and production factories must be. Imagine working at a bank or insurance company without electricity and—therefore—no computers. It's tough to imagine how productive and efficient these places would be in a country where only one fifth of the population has electricity.

No one is flocking to Guinea to build the next Amazon distribution centre.

For African countries to prosper, they need electricity. They need fast, efficient and affordable fuel—not costly, low-output solar and wind farms. The worst part about all of this is that world leaders, media and corporations know exactly what Africa's biggest problems are, but they're still focused on keeping the continent in the dark—literally. As Obadias Ndaba wrote in February for the Huffington Post, energy poverty is holding Africa back:

The African Development Bank estimates that Africa’s rolling power outages sap its economy anyway from 2 to 4 percent GDP growth every year. That’s about the same as global growth in 2016, which is estimated at 2.3%. For Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, the Economist reported that power shortages were responsible for the loss in GDP annual growth of a staggering 4 percentage points.

With sky-high unemployment rates across the continent and a growing population, Africa needs to create an estimated 11 million new jobs every year in order to absorb new entrants on the job market. To do that, rapid growth in labor-intensive sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture is crucial. But these sectors require access to affordable and reliable energy. Addressing energy poverty is therefore an imperative for Africa’s growth and should be a top priority for governments across the continent. Politicians, economists and policy-makers like to make plans for Africa’s industrialization. But that won’t materialize unless Africa can produce enough energy to power its growing cities and burgeoning industries.

In order for there to be jobs, there needs to be businesses. In order for there to be businesses, there needs to be electricity. As Ndaba notes, Africa's growth is outpacing its capabilities. When compared to China, a country with over one billion people, we actually see a lot less energy poverty. This is because China's energy demands are being met with high capacity coal and oil power plants. Unlike Africa, China has been able to fuel most of its economy with fossil fuels, without much suppression from outside forces. Unlike China, Africa has faced more international pressure to avoid fossil fuels than China—mostly due to the continent's lack of clout and military might. The sad truth is that African countries have been influenced and bribed with international money to avoid fossil fuels in favour of green alternatives.

As this Wikipedia entry on renewable energy in Africa so succinctly states and admits in a section called “Avoiding Fossil Fuels”, Africa is being encouraged (pressured) by the international community to avoid fossil fuels with “expert” insights like this:

By investing in the long term energy solutions that alternative energy sources afford, most African nations would benefit significantly in the longer term by avoiding the pending economic problems developed countries are currently facing.

Although in many ways fossil fuels provide a simple, easy to use energy source that powered the industrialization of most modern nations, the issues associated with the widespread use of fossil fuels are now numerous, consisting of some of the world's most difficult and large scale global political, economic, health and environmental problems. The looming energy crisis results from consuming these fossil fuels at a rate which is unsustainable, with the global demand for fossil fuels expected to increase every year for the next several decades, compounding existing problems.

While a great number of projects are currently underway to expand and connect the existing grid networks, too many problems exist to make this a realistic option for the vast majority of people in Africa, especially those who live in rural locations. Distributed generation using renewable energy systems is the only practical solution to meet rural electrification needs.

While the world—and Western, non-African Wikipedia authors—tell us that fossil fuels are simple, easy and cheap, they also tell us that Africa should avoid fossil fuels for political and environmental reasons and that renewable energy is the “only practical solution” for Africa. We have a situation where modern, prospering nations are deciding Africa's needs for Africans. If a bunch of rich, privileged white people telling impoverished black people how to live sounds familiar, that's because it has happened before—but we won't get into that here.

Successful nations and their environmental activists are keeping Africa in the dark on purpose, in the name of some ideological crusade. As the above Wikipedia article so clearly states, privileged and wealthy nations are actively working to keep Africa in a perpetual state of energy poverty. African leaders are being lectured and bribed with billions in handouts to turn them away from fossil fuels and to discourage them from pursuing energy independence.

Going back to Ndaba's article, he touches on the more morbid affects of energy poverty in Africa that I mentioned earlier:

Energy scarcity doesn’t just stunt economic growth; it kills millions of people every year too. The International Energy Agency reckons that 38% of the global population – about 2.6 billion people, 700 million of whom are Africans - don’t have access to clean cooking facilities. They cook with polluting fuels like wood, dung, crop waste and coal. As a result, the World Health Organization estimates put the number of deaths linked to indoor air pollution in 2012 to 4.3 million. A silent environmental killer we seldom hear about.

For the poor, energy poverty means that the use of modern medical equipment is limited, putting patients’ lives at risk and children can’t study at night, leading to low-quality education and future low productivity.

Ndaba is an African, but never mind his insights. The rich white people from Canada and the United States know what's best for Africa. The very same World Health Organization of the United Nations that admits indoor air pollution kills four million people also doesn't want developing countries like Guinea to quit resorting to burning biomass indoors for heat and cooking.

Don't get the wrong idea though, Ndaba is still optimistic about Africa's future in renewable energy. There is definitely a future there. Despite my sarcasm here, renewable energy is the most logical, long-term solution to any civilization's sustainability. However, robbing Africa of the very same steps that allowed the West to achieve energy independence is unfair. To get to a future of green sustainability, you need some level of economic prosperity. To achieve that economic prosperity, you need fossil fuels.

Ndiba goes on:

Off-grid electricity provides important social benefits. People can light up their homes, hospitals can function properly, the quality of air can be significantly improved and households can perhaps afford to power small home appliances. But don’t count on off-grid electricity to be the solution for Africa’s energy crisis. Off-grid electricity has limits too: they won’t produce the amount of electricity needed for large-scale industrial production that Africa so desperately needs.

So powering Africa’s economies and industries will require expanding significantly the traditional grids too. The good news is that Africa is endowed with enormous energy resources: from solar and hydroelectric power to wind and geothermal power. The bad news is that tapping into Africa’s energy potential requires massive investments.

Completing Congo’s Grand Inga Dam alone, which has been dogged by delays and false promises for decades, could double Africa’s electricity production. But it would also require 100 billion in investment. The reason these big projects don’t come to fruition is Africa’s over-reliance on international donors and lenders such as the World Bank, who are increasingly becoming picky on whether projects are renewable or not and whose promises aren’t always kept. Remember Obama’s Power Africa Initiative announced with much fanfare in 2013 and aimed at doubling Africa’s electricity production? It has so far met less than 5% of its goals.

In a few simple sentences, Ndaba confirms that Africa is dependent on international donors and that powering Africa will require expanding “traditional grids”, meaning grids powered by oil and coal. The off-grid solar power he talks about, admittedly, won't power the factories and businesses that Africa needs to fuel economic growth. Ongoing projects to fund solar and hydro-power have stalled and been “dogged by delays” and broken promises, according not only to Ndaba, but anyone who has researched Africa's situation.

The selective lending Ndaba talks about also proves that organizations like the IMF and nations like Canada would refuse to invest in cheap and efficient fossil fuel projects in Africa. No matter how badly African countries need affordable energy, they won't get the help they need from rich white people who know what's best for Africa. Instead, they'll be indebted by world lenders who require any energy investments to go toward expensive, inefficient renewable sources. Africans will continue to live in energy poverty while Canadians and Americans send billions to corrupt regimes in Zimbabwe and the Congo, trusting that they'll invest it in renewable energy initiatives—like hydro dams that never get built.

The Death Tolls

It's confirmed that four million people worldwide are killed by the indoor pollution caused in regions where people have to burn biomass to cook and heat their homes. On top of that, according to WHO, half a million to one million people are killed by Malaria—which is a treatable disease. Of course, the disease is less treatable in regions without electricity. Not coincidentally, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 92% of the world's Malaria deaths.

Without jobs, most Africans are unable to afford HIV treatment. Without education, some Africans don't know how to prevent HIV from spreading. Both of these situations can partly be attributed to energy poverty. In 2011, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 70% of the world's AIDS deaths. It's estimated that two million sub-Saharan Africans die of AIDS every year. In North America, premature HIV/AIDS deaths are significantly lower due to treatment options.

Malnutrition can also be partly attributed to energy poverty. Without electricity, businesses can't function. Without businesses, people don't have incomes. Without incomes, people can't afford to buy or transport food. It is estimated that 2.6 million children die of malnutrition each year globally. In 2016, 5.6 million children died before the age of five for reasons including illness, complication, disease and malnutrition—all of which are preventable in places with running water, sanitation and... electricity.

So far, the death toll under energy poverty is astronomical and measurable. When we compare these numbers to how many people anthropogenic climate change has killed, the difference is incomparable for obvious reasons. Even if we wanted to attribute some recent weather events to climate change, the numbers still wouldn't compare.

In 2017, based on what you just read, more than 12 million people will have died because they lacked basic necessities that come easily with electricity and carbon based products.

This month, Typhoon Damrey killed 27 people in Vietnam; in August, California wildfires killed 43 people; hurricanes Irma and Harvey killed more than 200 people; in total, the Atlantic hurricane season of 2017 killed approximately 500 people.

As you can see, even if we attribute every major weather event of 2017 to anthropogenic climate change, we get nowhere near 12 million deaths. Even when we lump in people who have been killed by drought in places where drought is unusual, we get nowhere near the same number as those killed by energy poverty, or by poverty in general.

There you have it. The science is settled. Energy poverty is a global catastrophe that causes 12,000 times more death and suffering than anthropogenic climate change. Now what?