As climate change warms up the planet, people already living in hot areas and tropical regions will experience more extreme temperatures to push the limits of human survival.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) press release, the past six years have been the warmest on record since 1880, with 2016, 2019, and 2020 being the top three years. In 2020, our global average temperature was 1.2C above preindustrial levels.
Temperatures in urban areas can also be several degrees higher than in nearby rural areas, known as the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. This UHI happens when cities replace natural landcover with dense pavement, buildings, and other surfaces absorbing and retaining heat. UHI increases energy costs linked to the use of a/c and affects health due to increased air pollution levels and heat-related illness and mortality (Reduce Urban Heat, 2021).
While air conditioning is hailed as “one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It both boosts economic growth and reduces heat-related deaths”. It also facilitates learning and working efficiently. But air conditioning is also harmful to the climate, as it emits hydrofluorocarbon. This potent GHG gas can be a hundred times more potent than CO2 in contributing to climate change (Hydrofluorocarbons, n.d.).
Air conditioning also consumes enormous amounts of energy; fossil fuels primarily power it. According to the Economist, at least 7% of the global GHG emissions come from cooling.
As demands for air conditioning continue to grow due to warming temperatures and the increase in population in urban areas, global warming will also increase.
So how can we cool ourselves without contributing to climate change?
An interesting video from the Economist shows how we can adapt to rising temperatures through alternative and sustainable solutions.
These cooling solutions range from new technologies to affordable solutions that can be applied on a mass scale, from the design of buildings to better urban design and the use of nature-based solutions without contributing to climate change.
2020 was one of three warmest years on record. (2021, January 15). World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved from https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/2020-was-one-of-three-warmest-years-record
Reduce Urban Heat Island Effect. (2021). EPA. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure/reduce-urban-heat-island-effect
How to cool a warming world. (2021, November 9). The Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/films/2021/11/09/how-to-cool-a-warming-world?