The number of days Brits swelter in uncomfortably hot temperatures will increase by almost a third if the world misses its essential target to limit global warming by 1.5C.
Switzerland, UK and Norway will see the world’s most dramatic relative increase in days that require cooling interventions like window shutters, ventilation, fans, or air conditioning, according to a new University of Oxford research.
Eight of the 10 countries with the greatest relative increase in uncomfortably hot days are expected to be in Northern Europe, with Canada and New Zealand completing the list.
Switzerland and the UK will see a 30% increase in days with uncomfortably hot temperatures if the world heats to 2ºC, while Norway will see an increase of 28%.
This is a conservative estimate and does not consider extreme events like heatwaves, which would come on top of this average increase.
The researchers believe these countries are dangerously underprepared for this change.
‘Right now, for example, sustainable cooling barely has a mention in the UK’s net zero strategy,’ said the study’s co-author Dr Radhika Khosla.
‘Without adequate interventions to promote sustainable cooling we are likely to see a sharp increase in the use of energy guzzling systems like air conditioning, which could further increase emissions and lock us into a vicious cycle of burning fossil fuels to make us feel cooler while making the world outside hotter.’
‘If we adapt the built environment in which we live, we won’t need to increase air conditioning. But right now, in countries like the UK, our buildings act like greenhouses – no external protection from the sun in buildings, windows locked, no natural ventilation and no ceiling fans. Our buildings are exclusively prepared for the cold seasons.’ explained co-lead author Dr Jesus Lizana.
Some of the solutions proposed for retrofitting buildings were to introduce ventilation measures that could also be closed off to keep in heat during winter and extendable shading covers such as awnings or more trees next to buildings to reflect the suns rays.
The researchers also suggested having personal fans that cool only the space occupied by people and not entire rooms that are empty, or for buildings where air condition is necessary, installing a heat pump that can cool in summer and warm in winter.
The top ten countries that will experience the highest needs for cooling overall in a 2.0ºC scenario are all in Africa, with central Africa most affected.
‘These conditions will pose further stress to the continent’s socio-economic development and energy networks… issues that require much additional research given the limited studies of this rising threat in the African context,’ said Dr Khosla.
‘It is also a clear indication that Africa is bearing the brunt of a problem they did not create, which should further strengthen calls for climate justice and equity.’