A significant global population will begin to experience food instability and lack of access to quality healthcare and safe medicine as a result of intensifying heat levels triggered by climate change, a new report has found.
The situation is even direr for over a billion people living in poor rural and urban slum areas.
These lack cooling facilities, including adequate refrigeration, air conditioning, and cooling storages, according to the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) research released Thursday.
“As the world rapidly urbanises and temperatures only grow, we risk a significant increase in the number of people without access to sustainable cooling,” said António Mexia, Chairman of the SEforALL Administrative Board and CEO of Energias de Portugal (EDP).
“Developing economies are now at threat of suffering from a ‘productivity penalty’ as they deal with record temperatures and lack of cooling, stunting economic growth and further exacerbating global cooling injustice.”
The study, ‘Chilling Prospects: Tracking Sustainable Cooling for All 2019’ shows a notable growth in the urban slum population (a rise of 50 million people in the past year) – those living in the darkest parts of the cities lacking basic amenities including consistent access to electricity – at the highest risk from a lack of cooling access.
It said in 52 high-risk countries, 365 million people in rural areas and 680 million people in urban slums are at risk due to lack of access to safe food and medicines and little or no cooling to protect them in a heatwave.
According to the report, another 2.2 billion people in the lower middle class in developing countries represent a different risk.
They are only able to afford cheaper, less energy-efficient air conditioners, potentially causing a spike in global energy demand and profound negative climate impacts, it said.
Impact of Climate Change
The impact of climate change is already putting a massive strain on Africa.
The continent is set to bear the most economic damage from rising temperatures over the next three decades, claims a research from risk consultancy firm, Verisk Maplecroft.
The spike in temperatures coupled with increasing urbanisation and growing populations will also put a strain on electricity infrastructure and the need for air conditioning especially for sub-Saharan African countries experiencing more frequently, intense climate extremes over the past decades.
Despite experiencing intense heatwaves, Nigeria among other West African countries does not have clear plans to invest in national cooling infrastructure to provide residential and commercial cooling that will address these challenges.
The SEforALL report stated that India represents one of the countries to drive the change for rural people living in poverty with a significant increase in rural energy access.
The Indian government has taken an important step by publishing India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) in March 2019.
“The plan recognizes the issue of cooling for development and addresses the threat of climate change. It aims to reduce cooling demand by 20-25 per cent, refrigerant demand by 25-30 per cent, and cooling energy requirements by 25-40 per cent from 2017-2018 levels in their 20-year target plan,” the report said.