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, according to a report from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

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, Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 additional 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 WHO 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.

Goklany was associated with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change off and on over a 20-year period as an author, expert reviewer, and U.S. delegate. His analysis is published in the spring 2011 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the official journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Source: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons