1.2 billion people are at risk from extreme heat

For millions of people, daily life continues with heatwaves. But for those living below the poverty line or without access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy, their ability to adapt and thrive is held back without access to cooling. Up to 1.2 billion people in the world, that is, one in seven people do not have adequate access to cooling and are at “high risk” of extreme heat, 21 million more than the previous year.

This is the conclusion of the study by the NGO Sustainable Energy for All Chilling prospects for 2022 after evaluating 76 countries with challenges in terms of cooling, released this Tuesday in Kigali at a joint event with the UN Environment Program, according to a statement from the entity.

Cooling is also a decisive problem for the planet. Cooling already consumes 17% of global electricity demand, and this figure could triple by 2050. Without access to sustainable and affordable solutions and planning to meet cooling needs, the achievement of SDG7 will be delayed, threatening the Paris Agreement and our ambition for a net-zero future.

Between now and 2030, the authors predict that the population at high risk of extreme heat will increase “if no action is taken to achieve universal electrification and an end to extreme poverty”, goals that, if achieved, could lower the figure by 36 % (450 million people). With “high risk” populations refer to those who do not have access to electricity, refrigeration for food or cold chains for farmers or who have incomes below the poverty line, poor ventilation and construction and vaccines exposed to high temperatures.

Today, it is the most vulnerable who suffer the most from lack of access to sustainable cooling. This includes farmers, who are unable to grow and sell perishable crops due to a lack of access to cold chains that connect them to more lucrative markets. It also includes women, who are at high risk of heat stress at their jobs and during pregnancy; young people, whose opportunities and productivity are diminishing in the absence of comfortable learning environments; and children who may suffer the consequences of ineffective vaccines.

According to research by The Lancet, in 2019 more than 350,000 people around the world lost their lives due to extreme heat.

extreme heat caused the deaths

In 2014, the World Health Organization predicted that 12,000 people would lose their lives each year due to heatwaves. Eight years later, we know the scale of the challenge is greater: new research for The Lancet shows extreme heat killed 356,000 people in 2019 alone.

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As confirmed by the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on adaptation, the risks of extreme heat are even higher in cities. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas, and the number of megacities exceeding 10 million inhabitants is expected to reach 43, many of them in developing regions.

In rapidly growing urban areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the vulnerability of poor households is compounded by air pollution, the urban heat island effect, limited access to a good quality built environment and key cooling infrastructure.

unsustainable cities

In 2050, it is estimated that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas and that the number of megacities – those with more than 10 million inhabitants – will reach 43, many of them being formed in developing regions, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Sustainable Energy For All study underlines that the daily life of millions of people cannot stop when heat waves are recorded and recall that for those living below the poverty line “their ability to adapt and prosper is hampered by lack of access to refrigeration. The NGO warns that there are nine countries where the situation is considered to be of high impact and risk, due to the number of people who live there below the poverty line: India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mozambique, Sudan and Brazil.

In rapidly growing urban areas in Asia, Africa and South America, the vulnerability of poor households ” is compounded by air pollution, the urban heat island effect, limited access to good quality construction and poor infrastructure “. refrigeration”, adds the document. Sustainable Energy for All raises possible measures to combat extreme heat: for example, so-called “nature-based solutions”, such as planting trees in urban areas for greater access to shade, or those based on technology, such as air conditioners ” hyper-efficient” or “well-designed buildings”.

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