air conditioning

Efficient cooling tech needed to save millions from excessive global warming

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Over 1.1bn people globally face immediate risks from lack of access to cooling in the wake of rising temperatures brought about by global warming, according to a new study.

The report from the non-profit group Sustainable Energy for All found that 470 million people in poor rural areas were without access to safe food and medicines.

In addition, 630 million people living in hotter, poor urban slums had little or no cooling to protect them against extreme heatwaves.

The nine countries most at risk are India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan.

The report also warned that increased electricity demand from fridges, fans and other appliances will add to man-made climate change unless power generators shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energies.

“In a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury - it’s essential for everyday life,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All.

“It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines and safe work and housing conditions.

“This ‘Chilling Prospects’ report is a wake-up call. We must meet these needs in an energy efficient way and without using ozone damaging substances. If not, the risks to life, health and the planet are significant. There are equally important business opportunities for those that face up to the challenge and act early.”

Companies could find big markets, for instance, by developing low-cost, high-efficiency air conditioners to sell to growing middle classes in tropical countries.

Simpler solutions are also proposed, such as painting roofs white to reflect sunlight or redesigning buildings to allow heat to escape.

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 heatwave in May 2018, more than 60 people died in Karachi, Pakistan, when the heat rose above 40°C.

In remote areas in tropical countries, many people lack electricity and medical clinics are often unable to store vaccines or medicines that need to be chilled, the study said. 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°C, 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.

Rates of extinction in protected marine animals are also set to rise rapidly, as they will not be able to tolerate the warming ocean temperatures, according to a study earlier this year. 

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