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Cooling a warmer world to cost Earth in climate terms: Report

Refrigeration could soon be a burning issue

WT24 Desk

In the next three decades, cooling a warmer world will bring soaring demand for equipment to bring the mercury down and it is predicted that 19 cooling appliances will be installed every second, says a new report.

However, even with this massive growth of the cooling sector, much of the world will still be without access to cooling, enduring the consequences — poverty, malnutrition, spoiled medicines, unsafe living and working environments.

“If we’re to deliver access to cooling for all by 2050, our analysis suggests we could require 14 billion cooling appliances globally — four times as many as are in use today as and 4.5 billion more than current global projections for 2050,” says a new global report a copy of which UNB obtained.

The appetite for energy to fuel air-conditioning, cold stores, refrigerated transport and medical “cold chains” that preserve vital vaccines could rise nearly five-fold.

“The world must not solve a social crisis by creating an environmental catastrophe; we need to ensure access to affordable Cooling for All (C4A) with minimum environmental impact and maximum efficient use of natural and waste resources,” says the report.

The report titled ‘A cool world: Defining the energy conundrum of cooling for all’ and carried out by the University of Birmingham said effective cooling is essential to preserve food and medicine.

It underpins industry and economic growth, which are keys to sustainable urbanisation as well as providing a ladder out of rural poverty.

“With significant areas of the world projected to experience temperature rises that place them beyond those which humans can survive, cooling will increasingly make much of the world bearable – or even safe – to live in,” reads the report.

“Yet, the growth of artificial cooling will create massive demand for energy and, unless we can reduce our need for cooling and roll out solutions for clean and sustainable cooling provision, this will cause high levels of CO2 and pollution.”

So, paradoxically, humans will raise the planetary average temperatures even higher in the effort to keep cool.

There are rewards – even in climate terms – for investing in efficient cooling: it could cut food waste, save lives and efforts, and contain further warming, according to a message received from Climate News Network.

But the air conditioning that could made life tolerable in overcrowded, airless cities could also directly feed back into further global warming, according to other studies.

Some of the extra energy demand could be met from renewable energy sources – solar and wind power, for instance – that do not spill dangerous levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

But to “green” the world’s air conditioning by 2050 would consume 80 percent of all the wind and solar energy so far expected on stream three decades from now, and if the technology of cooling is not made more efficient, it could take up more than 100 percent.

“The challenge now is how to start with a system-led approach, better harnessing a portfolio of energy resources and adopting novel technologies,” said Toby Peters, of the University of Birmingham’s energy institute, and one of the authors.

“In order to achieve this, we need to start asking ourselves a new question – no longer ‘how much electricity do we need to generate?’ but rather ‘what is the service we require, and how can we provide it in the least damaging way?’”

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