Malaria and Global Warming

Roger Pielke Jr., my favorite thrower of inconvenient hand grenades, wrote a provocative post this week about the linkage between malaria and global warming.

Malaria, Jeffrey Sachs writes, causes poverty.1 It does this by reducing economic productivity, creating a vicious cycle in which people get sick, can’t work, are less productive and therefore can’t afford the relatively inexpensive steps needed to protect against, and treat, malaria.

The result, according to Sachs (all the cool kids seem to be reading him these days): 3 million deaths, and a billion people sick from malaria every year in Africa.2

Providing the necessary assistance to help the extremely poor (those living on $1 or less a day) deal with malaria seems like a no brainer for the rich world. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. I mean, 3 million kids dying a year of a disease that’s treatable and preventable? What more need be said? But providing that necessary help, as Sachs and Richard Collier3 note, is also critical to helping pull the extremely poor out of that status.

But what is “pulling them out of poverty” if not increasing their economic footprint? And what goes along with that increasing economic footprint? Increased carbon emissions.

Roger’s done a notional back-of-the envelope calculation showing the dramatic increase in global warming emissions in Africa if we help them deal with malaria. In other words, treating malaria in Africa will contribute to global warming. I have no idea if Roger’s numbers are right in detail, but he’s clearly got the sign right (increase in greenhouse gas emissions). And the magnitude, whether it’s more or less than his number, is clearly going to be significant.

This is not, of course, to argue against treating malaria. It’s merely another illustration of the tangled relationship between disease, poverty, economics and climate change on a global scale. It’s a really hard problem.

(Picture courtesy Kenya Medical Mission)

  1. The End of Poverty, p. 197 []
  2. Common Wealth, p. 232 []
  3. Bottom Billion []

6 Comments

  1. Which is why the greens hate black people. See black people want to “eat” and “develope” and “not die from malaria” but all these things would increase their carbon footprint. So I guess the poor little Africans will have to eat cake…

  2. Mick, the greens don’t just hate black people, they hate all people. I have contended from the beginning that Al Gore is a genocidal maniac and should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. Of course I’m considered a kook, but we are now seeing that I was right.

    Food shortages, death from disease. Banning DDT didn’t cause the people to die at a fast enough rate so the “global warming” crusade began.

    Eventually folks will see the absolute evil, but currently they’re too busy trying to work the words sprawl and sustainable into every sentence.

  3. Ignore the absolute evil. My guess is the earth could sustain a sprawling population of 51 quintillion people without any real environmental impact, completely sustainable as measured by food, air and water prices.

    Little known fact: Every serial killer in history was a member of an environmentalist or conservationist group. But an obscure UN treaty prevents the FBI from adding that to profiles.

  4. So are you guys saying that the government has been trying to deplete the number of people on the planet for awhile now? Wow, this is kinda news to me, but very interesting to look into. I had no idea that they want these people to die. It’s so cruel and immoral.
    I mean yeah, supposedly the world is over populated, but I’m sure there are much better ways of reducing it. There could be a required number of kids per families perhaps, like in China. Or we could promote birth control more. Or something. Geez.
    Something needs to be done about this.

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