International Finance
Magazine November - December 2018 Sector Insight

Simmering temperatures, dwindling quality of life have we reached a critical point?

Simmering temperatures, dwindling quality of life have we reached a critical point?
Rising temperatures across the globe are stressing natural resources, and it’s the poor that suffer. Lack of adequate cooling systems can have far-reaching socio-economic effect on emerging nations

The world is now moving at a pace that is faster than ever. There is only one direction that people are interested in looking at—and that is the future. This sort of drive most definitely bought about an increased level of prosperity and affluence to everyone—but it also has undoubtedly been a massive drain on the surrounding world.

Temperatures are hitting record levels across the globe. This trend is a combination of many factors—concentration of population, rabid levels of consumption and less regard for its aftereffects. Often, there is not any room left in the economy and infrastructure to fill in the gaps. Put it simply, rising heat levels have significant effects in countries all across the planet.

In the case of poor, undeveloped and still-developing nations though, the effects can be drastic. Since access gaps in these areas tend to be the largest—excess heat can jeapordise the health, safety and the entire way of life in these regions. They can also cause critical damage to their social and psychological fabric and cause irreparable harm to their existence. It may be a cruel act of nature but it’s true. Climate change tends to hit poor countries the hardest.

Simmering temperatures, dwindling quality of life have we reached a critical point?A research conducted by Luke Harrington, a climate researcher at the University of Oxford, UK found that large parts of India and almost all of South America are likely to experience changes directly attributable to global warming early on, after a 1.5% increase in global temperatures. In contrast, mid-latitude regions, where most greenhouse gases are produced will not see these changes till the temperature rise hits 3% or so. 

Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) released Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All—which was the first ever report that quantified the growing risks and assessed the opportunities of the global cooling challenge. After analysing around 52 vulnerable nations across the globe, it postulated that an overall of 1.1 billion people among them faced cooling risks—out of which 470 million people lived in poor rural areas that have no access to food and medicine. The remaining 630 million people lived in even hotter, poorer slums, that have little or no cooling to protect them against extreme heatwaves. The report also found nine countries to have the largest populations facing significant cooling access risks. These included countries like India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan.

It wasn’t just the poorest populace though. The growing middle class in the country, comprising of 2.3 billion people, also represented a different kind of cooling risk. They only had access to limited purchasing options—which meant that they were only able to buy less expensive and less efficient cooling devices—which meant that there may be a spike in global energy demand that can have a profound impact on the climate.

Hence, maintaining a cooling process is a vital part of the human ecosystem. It is important to fight rising temperatures with appropriate countermeasures that bring a measure of stability to the natural environment. Put it simply, we need cooling. It underpins the ability of millions to escape poverty, to keep children healthy, food nutritious and overall keep the way of life stable and productive. There is a collective need for humanity to discover emergent solutions that balance out the extremities of the slowly-changing environment. Cooling also has effects on a country’s economy. Since previous research has indicated that work-hour losses in countries can vary from 2%-12% due to excess heat—efficient cooling can help make up for those numbers.

All of that may sound simple but it’s not. Just like any other procedure, the cooling process in itself taxes the environment. It in itself requires the need for available resources that it unfortunately has no other choice, but to borrow from the environment itself. In fact, cooling was estimated to be responsible for about 10% of global warming overall—and that number is growing higher in rank each day. The research and development of sustainable cooling, which is done in both developed and developing nations—also drains resources. As William Saletan wrote in his article The Deluded World of Air-Conditioning, for Slate magazine : “From a cooling standpoint, the first transaction is a wash, and the second is a loss. We’re cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that’s still habitable.”

Still, finding solutions to problems, and by extension—better alternatives to the existing ones, is what constitutes progress. Sustainable methods of cooling also form a big part of design thinking towards sustainability. No matter how great a system is, it can always be bettered. Tim Brown, creator of Design Thinking—and the founder of IDEO, defines it as : ““A discipline that uses a designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with which is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” If the work towards sustainability gets more complex and challenging each day, so should the thoughts and ideas behind it be more radical. 

This sort of free-form, considerate and innovative thinking was encouraged in the Chilling Prospects report—which issued an urgent call-to-action and specific recommendations to government policy-makers, business leaders, investors and to the civil society towards sustainable cooling solutions for all. The report was developed by the ‘Cooling for All Initiative’, which developed it along with contributions from the Global Panel on Access to Cooling. The report was made to draw attention to the three internationally agreed goals. Namely the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment.

The recommendations included measuring gaps in access to cooling in their countries to various government policymakers ; collaboration on both economic opportunities and sustainable options to business, government and finance sectors; engagement and cooperation to manufacturers to develop products to meet needs of those without access to cooling; and finally embracing of innovation and free-thinking to stakeholders to introduce a more holistic approach in their work. Chilling Prospects was being launched during this week’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum, which is reviewing progress towards several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG7—access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Meeting these growing cooling demands with clean, sustainable options for the entire world, will help support global energy goals.

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