More than a billion people struggle to stay cool as Earth warms

About 1.1 billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America are at risk from lack of air conditioning and refrigeration. [Shutterstock]

More than a billion people are at risk from a lack of air conditioning and refrigeration to keep them cool and to preserve food and medicines as global warming brings more high temperatures, a study showed on Monday (16 July).

More electricity demand for fridges, fans and other appliances will add to man-made climate change unless power generators shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energies, according to the report by the non-profit Sustainable Energy for All group.

About 1.1 billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America – 470 million in rural areas and 630 million slum dwellers in cities – were at risk among the world’s 7.6 billion people, it said.

“Cooling becomes more and more important” with climate change, Rachel Kyte, head of the group and special representative for the U.N. Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, told Reuters.

In a survey of 52 countries, those most at risk included India, China, Mozambique, Sudan, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, it said.

Cooling, Europe’s unheralded energy challenge

Heating and cooling takes up half the European Union’s energy consumption but it is often radiators and heaters that hog the spotlight, while air conditioning and fans are sidelined. But the changing climate and economic situation means cooling is set to become far more important.

“We have to provide cooling in a super-efficient way,” Kyte said. Companies could find big markets, for instance by developing low-cost, high-efficiency air conditioners to sell to growing middle classes in tropical countries.

And simpler solutions, such as painting roofs white to reflect sunlight or redesigning buildings to allow heat to escape, would also help.

The UN’s health agency says that heat stress linked to climate change is likely to cause 38,000 extra deaths a year worldwide between 2030 and 2050. In a heat-wave in May, more than 60 people died in Karachi, Pakistan, when heat rose above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F).

In remote areas in tropical countries, many people lack electricity and clinics are often unable to store vaccines or medicines that need to be chilled, the study said. And in city slums, electricity supplies are often intermittent.

Many farmers or fishermen, meanwhile, lack access to a “cold chain” to preserve and transport products to markets. Fresh fish goes off within hours if stored at 30 degrees Celsius (86°F) but stays fresh for days when chilled.

Last week, a study by the University of Birmingham in Britain projected that the number of cooling appliances could quadruple by 2050 to 14 billion worldwide, driving a surge in energy consumption.\

IEA analyst: A heating and cooling target 'could make a big difference'

As talks on the EU’s renewable energy rules resume, one of the main talking points is how to decarbonise the heating sector, and deploy technologies like heat pumps and district heating. The International Energy Agency’s Ute Collier told EURACTIV in an interview that the task is complex and difficult.

Supporters



What is heating & cooling?

Heating and cooling our buildings and industry accounts for half of the EU’s energy consumption. 82% of heating and cooling is still generated from fossil fuels while only 18% is generated from renewable energy [source: EC].


What are the renewable options?


Mark your agenda


Policymakers and other experts are getting together this 22nd May in Brussels to discuss the future of the heating and cooling sector. We recommend joining this workshop featuring a keynote speech by Dominique Ristori, Director General for Energy, European Commission. Register here.


More about the supporters

The European Copper Institute is a joint venture between the International Copper Association Ltd. (ICA), headquartered in New York, representing the majority of the world’s leading mining companies, custom smelters and semi-fabricators, and the European copper industry.

The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) is the common voice of the bioenergy sector with the aim to develop a sustainable bioenergy market based on fair business conditions.

EGEC, the European Geothermal Energy Council, is a non-profit international organisation founded in 1998 to promote the European geothermal industry and enable its development both in Europe and worldwide, by shaping policy, improving business condition, and driving more research and development.

Solar Heat Europe strives for the growth of solar heat solutions in Europe through different actions, such as advocating for better regulation or encouraging the EU policy makers to shape a fair context for heating and cooling solutions.

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