Populations at risk due to lack of cooling

The report Chilling Prospects highlights the growing and unprecedented risks for the 1.1 billion people who cannot access cooling nowadays.

The non-profit organisation Sustainable Energy for All (SEorALL) recently published the report Chilling Prospects: providing sustainable cooling for all. SEforALL was launched in September 2011 by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a global initiative that would mobilize for three objectives by 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency1.

Chilling Prospects points out different kinds of risks due to the lack of cooling:

  • Heat waves: they already kill an estimated 12,000 people annually across the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this number could reach 92,000 deaths per year in 2030 and 255,000 in 2050 "unless governments (primarily cities) adapt to the threat". 30% of the world's population is currently exposed to life threatening temperatures for at least 20 days in the year. In countries where the air conditioning is available, mortality is dramatically reduced. For example, the mortality impact of days with means of temperature exceeding 27 °C declined by 75% in the US in the 20th century and almost disappeared in the last decades. Hot temperatures also have an impact on work capacity: by 2050, work hour losses by country are expected to be more than 2% in 10 world regions and as high as 12% in the worst affected regions of South Asia and West Africa.

  • Food issues: a 2015 WHO report estimates that 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die each year because of food poisoning. The absence of refrigeration is a significant contributing factor, in addition to inadequate conditions in food production and storage. Food lost and food waste are another major issue: the report estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food, representing a third of the total food produced for human consumption, is concerned. It states that "halving food loss by providing refrigeration and other food-related cold chains would feed the 1 billion chronically undernourished people in the world".

  • Preservation of vaccines: 25% of all vaccines suffer the lack of cooling and arrive damaged or degraded. Each year, 1.5 million people die from diseases for which vaccines exist. The WHO estimates that 50% of freeze-dried and 25% of liquid vaccines are wasted each year with cold chain disruptions being one of the biggest reason why.

The report states that in 2016, 2 billion people lacked access to electricity or are estimated to have unreliable access to it. Electricity is the key to gain access to cooling to run devices such as air conditioning, refrigerators, or to preserve vaccines thanks to a reliable cold chain.

The report focuses on an analysis of the 52 most vulnerable countries. It includes 470 million people in poor rural areas without electricity or cold chain, and 630 million slum dwellers living in hotter-climate urban areas where electricity services do not exist, are intermittent or too expensive. The biggest populations facing cooling-related risks are located in Mozambique, Sudan, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

The economic and social impacts to be gained by improving access to cooling are also evoked: "reducing the number of lost work hours, improving the productivity of the workforce, avoiding costs of healthcare for people with food poisoning or who are suffering because their vaccines weren’t stored properly, increasing the incomes of farmers, and increasing the number of jobs available to service a new cool economy".

To read the whole report, please follow this link.

1 SEforALL website.