By Sumedha Malaviya
The approaching summer months will bring with it predictable burden—the impact of heatwave on the homeless and poor in urban and rural India, the struggle and financial stress of managing indoor cooling or air-conditioning (AC) for the middle-class, the pressure this puts on the nation’s electricity grid, and the even more significant contribution to carbon emissions. Today, dialogue on access to cooling has taken centre-stage, globally. Recent research puts cooling, specifically cooling in buildings and refrigeration sectors at the centre of policymakers’ concerns. Even as the parties to the Paris Agreement failed to reach an agreement on variousimportant issues at COP25, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization projected a 3-5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century, far exceeding the target of 2 degrees Celsius or less.
Research by the University of Chicago points to a bigger problem: With focus in scientific discourse on the projected increase in average temperature, projection on the number of extremely hot days that directly impact human health and well-being is often overlooked. In north-western India (Punjab, Haryana and Delhi), the average daily temperature in summer is projected to be in the range of 35-38 degrees Celsius in the year 2100, compared to the current 30-32 degrees Celsius range. Across India, there were 5.1 such days per year in 2010 and based on high emissions these are projected to increase to 15.8 days in 2050 and 42.8 days in 2100. These high heat scenarios have critical implications not only for human health and productivity but also on avoiding food loss and wastage, fighting diseases and improving livelihoods in both, urban and rural areas. A November 2019 report by Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) highlights the importance of a ‘needs-based assessment’ approach for heat-related impacts on different population sets, in order to devise localized strategies, like cooling action plans, to address their varied needs.