Heat waves throughout the world are causing thousands of deaths and energy failures, highlighting need for next-generation cooling technology

A person is likely to experience heat stroke when spending more than a few minutes in 104ºF (40ºC). Higher humidity makes the effects of higher temperatures even more severe, as the body struggles more to cool off. In the past few weeks, several large regions of the world have experienced temperatures way above limits considered safe.

Weather agencies this week have reported heat waves averaging as high as 110ºF (43ºC) in India and Pakistan, and even worse in Texas, where the thermometers reached as high as 112ºF (44.4ºC). Mexico had the record, with 114º in the city of Monclova.


Temperatures in the US and South Asia as reported by the National Weather Service (NOAA). 

One of the results of these extremes caused by manmade climate change is the failure of energy grids, particularly in Texas, where most homes are air-conditioned. As temperatures rise, homeowners rely ever more on ACs to keep their homes in a safe range, and as they do so, they consume more energy than the grid is equipped to provide. Last week, this caused six power plants to fail.  

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Percentage of households with air conditioning by region. South Asia has some of the lowest numbers of ACs per household, but is experiencing some of the highest temperatures and humidity for very long periods, while populations exposed continue to rise. (Data from Rocky Mountain Research Institute, Solving the Global Cooling Challenge, reproduced under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license).

Climate scientists agree that these extreme temperatures are the new normal, and that in the future they will affect these regions for as much as two-thirds of the year. Anyone can check how many days above 90ºF have increased in their hometowns or even equatorial regions. The numbers are quite staggering. In Manila, Philippines, for example, 40 years ago one would experience only half of the year above 90º while today we expect well over 200 days (out of 365) at that temperature, a trend that will only get worse in the next 40 years. "Average temperatures" mean that all these regions have and will experience extremes that reach much higher than 90º or even 100º, since to move an average we need many days of extremes, as shown below.


The graphic shows how in order to move the average temperature of a region, many days of extreme heat have to occur. The alarming news from the southern US and South Asia indicates that those extremes are occurring. © Copyright Climate Central. Reproduced under fair use for educational purposes.

The only solution to such a crisis is to reduce energy demand, not by shutting off air conditioners, but by needing them less, thanks to improved heat management made possible next-generation heat abatement technology that can be implemented quickly and economically in regions of the world that are not equipped with air conditioners or power grids necessary to sustain them. This is the only feasible bridge solution to mitigate climate change in the short term and save the lives of those exposed to extreme heat, who are, by and large, socioeconomically disadvantage, as is often the case with the majority of the victims of climate change.