Switzerland, the UK and Norway are ‘dangerously unprepared’ to keep people calm if the world exceeds 1.5C of global warming.
New research from the University of Oxford has revealed which countries will see the most dramatic increase in days requiring cooling interventions such as blinds, fans or air conditioning.
8 of the 10 countries with the largest increase in uncomfortably hot days globally will be Northern Europe.
It’s also a vicious cycle, the researchers say. Without adequate measures for sustainable cooling, there will be a sharp increase in the use of high energy consumption air conditioning systems.
If fossil fuels are used to beat the heat, greenhouse gas emissions increase and accelerate the rate of global warming.
Where will the greatest increase in uncomfortably hot days occur?
The study uses a concept called “cooling degree days”. These are days when the temperature will be above average for the region and some kind of cooling system is needed to keep people comfortable.
If global warming exceeds 1.5°C, Ireland will top the list with 38% more days with these too warm temperatures.
Switzerland and the UK will see a 30% increase. Norway will see a 28% increase.
Followed by Finland and Sweden with an increase of 28%, followed by Austria (25%), Canada, Denmark and New Zealand (24%).
The researchers say these are also “conservative” estimates. They do not include extreme events such as heat waves that would add to average increases.
They say these countries are “dangerously unprepared” for change.
Buildings in Northern Europe are not designed for heat
‘Northern European countries will require large-scale adaptation to heat resilience more rapidly than other countries,’ says co-lead author Dr Nicole Miranda.
He points out that the UK has seen massive amounts of disruption during 2022 Record heat waves. Extreme heat also carries the risk of dehydration, fatigue and even death, especially in vulnerable populations such as the elderly or people with disabilities.
“It’s a health and economic imperative that we prepare for warmer days,” adds Miranda.
Part of the problem is this buildings in places like Northern Europe they are better designed to keep you warm during the winter than to keep you cool during the summer months.
Adapting our built environment would mean we don’t need to increase our use of air conditioning, explains Dr. Jesus Lizana, co-lead author of the study.
“Right now, in countries like the UK, our buildings are functioning like greenhouses: no external sun protection in buildings, closed windows, no natural ventilation and no ceiling fans.
“Our buildings are exclusively prepared for the cold seasons.”