Pieter Boussemaere: ‘wood fire is bad for health but good for climate’
The Christmas speech from Belgian king Filip didn’t go down very well with a lot of Belgian citizens. Citizens were upset to see a crackling wood fire in the background, while the king was talking about the climate. “The ultimate hypocrisy!”, they exclaimed, “the king sitting in front of the fire while he’s pointing out the climate issue.”
Critics are undeserved, though, according to Pieter Boussemaere, author, historian and professor specialized in prehistory and climate change.
A cosy fire is actually emitting more fine particles than a 1.000 km drive, which is not okay. Particles in the air are causing numerous heart and lung diseases. On top of that, the burning of wood produces a lot of dioxin and PAKs, carcinogenic substances which can disturb fertility and affect the hormone and immune system.
Particles, dioxin and PAKs, however, don’t have anything to do with global warming. On the contrary. When handled properly, wood-burning can be positive for the climate. In 2016, 22,06% of all renewable energy was coming from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. The largest source of renewable energy in Flanders so far, a score which is even higher than solar panels and wind farms.
Green energy coming from wood-burning stoves. It might sound like a contradiction. Still, Europe considers wood-burning a green energy source, especially when you use local wood from sustainably kept forests.
Why not opting massively for wood-burning then, ‘to save the planet’ ? Isn’t it a valuable alternative for heating with oil or gas? Definitely not. The availability of wood is limited and so would be the potential for heating. As to the climate, wood is only a good alternative for sporadically or extra heating. To execrate a royal fire as a climate sin therefore is wrong.
It is a typical example, however, of the usual confusion about environmental and climate issues. What’s positive for the environment is not always positive for the climate, and vice versa. Climate and the environment usually are two completely different things, with different causes and different solutions.
The fact that both concepts are confusing is making people uncertain, and people who are confused usually don’t do anything at all. So, all studies show the same conclusion: the better people are informed, the more they are willing to act goal-oriented.