Effective cooling is essential to preserve food and medicine. It underpins industry and economic growth as well as provides a ladder out of rural poverty. It increasingly makes much of the world bearable - or even safe - to live in.
Yet the growth of artificial cooling is creating massive demand for energy and, unless clean and sustainable cooling solutions can be rolled out, this will cause high levels of pollution.
The world must not solve a social crisis by creating an environmental catastrophe. We are seeing the development of more efficient and cleaner air-conditioners and fridges. But these alone will not be enough to achieve sustainable cooling for all in the face of booming global demand.
We need new needs-driven, integrated system-level approaches understanding the size and location of the multiple thermal, waste and wrong-time energy resources available and the novel energy vectors, thermal stores and clean cooling technologies appropriate for the societal, climate, infrastructure context. But it also needs societal, business and financial models that will allow them to be optimally integrated in a commercially sensible and technologically practical way.
Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy at the University-based Birmingham Energy Institute, comments: ‘The challenge now is how to embed this approach quickly enough to avoid investment in highly polluting conventional equipment – or sub-optimal alternative approaches – that lock in cooling emissions for years or decades.’