BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As heat becomes more extreme on a warming planet, millions more people are switching on air conditioners. But is machine-cooled air the best solution to rising temperatures?
In poorer countries, many families cannot afford air conditioning - although that is changing fast in the cities of emerging giants such as China and India.
Around the world, the number of air conditioners is expected to rise to 1.5 billion units by 2030 from 660 million in 2015.
In some richer, cooler countries like Britain or Finland, air conditioning hasn’t traditionally been needed, and most private homes do not have the equipment installed.
But with global average temperatures having risen by more than 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times, people are increasingly being jogged out of their physical and behavioral comfort zones, experts say.
“With climate change, we are going to be experiencing higher temperatures more generally - but also more frequent, more intense and longer heatwaves too,” said Angie Bone, head of the extreme events and health protection team at Public Health England, a UK government agency.
“The risks of heat can be under-estimated,” she said.
Even as their efficiency improves, air conditioners contribute to the problem of global warming, as they need power to run - much of which will be provided by burning fossil fuels in the near term.
So when the next heatwave hits, what are the greener alternatives for staying cool? Here are some ideas:
Sources: Public Health England, Ajuntament de Barcelona, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UN Environment, Encyclopaedia Britannica
Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering and Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate