Air-Conditioning Should Be a Human Right in the Climate Crisis

Tue, 10 May 2022 05:00:00 GMT
Scientific American - Technology

We need to protect vulnerable people from killer heat without destroying the environment

A record-breaking heat wave is sweeping South Asia, threatening hundreds of millions of people with deadly temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the world heats up, billions of people need air-conditioning.

In the tropics, heat waves last longer, reach higher temperatures and are far more deadly.

To understand what such heat waves mean for people physiologically, researchers use the "Wet-bulb temperature," which combines both heat and humidity to account for how the human body experiences extreme heat.

Heat waves in India have caused the death of at least 6,500 people since 2010.

In 2015 alone about 3,500 people died in India and Pakistan during the fifth deadliest heat wave ever recorded.

While mortality rates skyrocket during heat waves, there are other detrimental impacts to consider.

How can the world avert this disaster? First, by accepting that adequate cooling is an urgent human need in a warming climate.

The disruption caused by extreme heat will keep growing, and access to equitable cooling technology will be necessary to ensure the survival and economic prosperity of the billions of people living in tropical regions.

Air conditioner deployment should also be complemented by broader efforts to reduce overall cooling energy demand.

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