Challenges related to the adoption of air conditioning in emerging economies by 2040
The authors of a recent article modelled the adoption of air conditioning by 2040 in four emerging economies: Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. The adoption of AC could increase between two- to sixteen-fold, but a significant number of households may be left behind.
Recently, adaptation to global warming using air conditioning has been the subject of a growing number of studies examining the potential need and demand patterns in major regions of the world. The authors of an article recently published in Nature Communications have modelled the adoption of air-conditioning in four emerging economies: Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. The authors simulated how future climate and socio-economic changes will influence the adoption of air conditioning and the electricity consumption of households by 2040. They combined variations in cooling degree days (CDDs) simulated under two global warming scenarios, with changes in income described by five different shared socio-economic pathways.
They found that the adoption of air conditioning could increase two to sixteen-fold by 2040. In India, the average adoption rate would increase from 12% in 2012 to 49–69% in 2040; in Indonesia, from 8% in 2017 to 43–61% in 2040; in Mexico from 14% in 2016 to 35–42% in 2040; and in Brazil from 20% in 2018 to 65–85% in 2040.
Their analysis shows that in emerging economies, the decision to purchase an air conditioner in response to warmer climatic conditions is strongly anchored to a household’s socio-economic and demographic characteristics. Although many households will have an air conditioner by 2040, a non-negligible fraction of the population will be left behind. Their findings show that in 2040, a total of 64 to 100 million households, despite having access to electricity, will not be able to adequately satisfy their demand for thermal comfort, partly due to insufficient income.
The 2021 Chilling Prospects report has identified nine countries where there are particularly large numbers of vulnerable populations exposed to high temperatures and harsh economic conditions despite sometimes high electrification rates at national level. These “critical 9” countries are: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan. The report further identified a list of 22 countries, including Mexico, where some population groups are at risk of being exposed to high levels of heat stress without access to cooling. All these countries should remain a priority for access to cooling interventions.
 Pavanello, F., De Cian, E., Davide, M. et al. Air-conditioning and the adaptation cooling deficit in emerging economies. Nat Commun 12, 6460 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26592-2
 Chilling Prospects: Tracking Sustainable Cooling for All 2021. https://www.seforall.org/chilling-prospects-2021