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Cooling: The hidden threat for climate change and sustainable goals

Cooling: The hidden threat for climate change and sustainable goals

Past research suggests growing international demand for cooling has the potential to drive one of the most substantial increases in greenhouse gas emissions in recent history. A new study, led by the University of Oxford and published today in Nature Sustainability, sets out a framework for delivering sustainable cooling. It also examines cooling needs in the context of sustainable development, and finds that this is a global blind spot.

"Cooling is essential to human well-being and health, from the food we eat, to the storage of medicine, to how comfortable and productive we are at home, school or the office," says Dr. Radhika Khosla, senior researcher at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and principal investigator of the Oxford Martin Program on the Future of Cooling.

But, Dr. Khosla says, "The global community must commit to sustainable cooling, or risk locking the world into a deadly feedback loop, where demand for cooling energy drives further greenhouse gas emissions and results in even more global warming."

The scale of the challenge is immense. Records show September 2020 was the warmest month on record and, under current projections, three-quarters of humanity faces health risks from deadly heat. Research from the International Energy Agency has shown that the energy needed for space cooling alone is projected to triple by 2050—the equivalent of adding 10 new air conditioners every second for the next 30 years.
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