Over one billion people’s health at risk from global heatwaves

16th July 2018

Web heatwave istock 956177002

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Sustainability ,
  • Society


Kathryn Hands

More than 1.1 billion people face immediate risks to their health as they struggle to stay cool in record-breaking temperatures caused by global heatwaves this month.

That is according to a report published today by the UN-backed Sustainable Energy for All, which highlights how access to cooling is essential to escape poverty, keep children healthy, vaccines stable, food nutritious, and economies productive.

However, it estimates that 630 million people in poor urban slums have little or no protection against heatwaves, while 470 million in rural areas are without access to safe food and medicines.

There are also fears that a growing middle class of 2.3 billion people could increasingly turn to cheap and inefficient cooling devices, causing a spike in global energy demand and exacerbating global warming.

“In a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury, it’s essential for everyday life,” Sustainable Energy for All CEO, Rachel Kyte, said.

“It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines, and safe work and housing conditions. This report is a wake-up call.”

There have been multiple media reports of record-breaking temperatures across the world this month, including in eastern Canada, southern California, Australia, and the Caucasus.

The latest findings show that some of the countries facing the most significant cooling access risks are among those with the largest populations, including India, Bangladesh, Brazil and Pakistan.

The report also highlights how cooling is responsible for about 10% of global warming and growing rapidly, with future choices about refrigerants and efficiency expected to have a significant impact on achieving the Paris Agreement.

In response, it argues that greater investment in sustainable cooling solutions, and smarter policy-making, will be required to avoid major risks to vulnerable people and the global economy.

This could result in “enormous commercial and economic opportunities”, with previous research highlighting how up to 12% of work hours could be lost by 2050 due to excessive heat and lack of access to cooling.

“We must meet these needs in an energy efficient way, and without using ozone damaging substances,” Kyte said.

“If not, the risks to life, health and the planet are significant. But there are equally important business opportunities for those that face up to the challenge and act early.”

The report will be launched this week at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum, which is reviewing progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG7 – access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Image credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

UK off track for net zero by 2030, CCC warns

Only a third of the emission reductions required for the UK to achieve net zero by 2030 are covered by credible plans, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has warned today.

18th July 2024

Read more

Almost three-fifths of UK environmental professionals feel there is a green skills gap across the country’s workforce, or that there will be, a new survey has uncovered.

4th July 2024

Read more

Climate hazards such as flooding, droughts and extreme heat are threatening eight in 10 of the world’s cities, new research from CDP has uncovered.

3rd July 2024

Read more

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Nine in 10 UK adults do not fully trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments or follow the science all the time, a new survey has uncovered.

19th June 2024

Read more

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close