A new study by Oxford University has issued a warning that Africa will see an unprecedented rise in temperatures if global climate targets are exceeded.
The study highlights the potential consequences of global average temperatures exceeding the Paris Climate Agreement's limit of 1.5°C and rising to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Africa's cooling needs soar: Study
Published in the journal Nature Sustainability, the research indicates that countries in Africa, particularly the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Uganda and Cameroon have tremendous cooling needs. Will experience growth.
To identify the most vulnerable countries in Africa, the scientists used "cooling degree days" (CDD), a widely used method for estimating the energy needed to keep people comfortable.
The analysis was conducted on a global scale, examining the globe in a 60km grid every six hours for precise temperature averages. The results showed that the sub-Saharan region, particularly the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali and South Sudan, would face the most significant increases in cooling demand, requiring more than 250 additional CDD.
These growing cooling needs in Africa raise concerns about socioeconomic development and energy networks. Many African countries are already at an energy crossroads, and meeting rising energy demand for cooling could pose challenges to their sustainable development goals.
Worryingly, the study shows Africa had the highest historical cooling needs between 2009 and 2018. The Northeast region, especially the Horn of Africa, experienced unusually warm temperatures, with temperature anomalies exceeding the average by more than 2 °C. The researchers predict that these countries may face extreme heat events in the near future as the global average temperature is expected to increase by 1.5 °C by the 2030s.
Africa's rising heat demands attention
In addition, global CDD is projected to increase by approximately 25 percent by 2050, with the largest increase projected in already warming regions with rapidly growing populations.
Extreme heat has profound impacts and poses significant challenges to sustainable development, leading to dehydration, heat exhaustion and even death, especially among vulnerable populations.
The study stresses the urgent need for more research focused on the growing threat to Africa, which has been relatively understudied. Existing energy and climate policies in countries should be redesigned to build resilience to a warmer local climate.
The researchers used 2,100 global climate simulations to estimate mean temperatures for three scenarios: historical (2006–2016), 1.5 °C, and 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. They then calculated the CDD to compare global warming scenarios and identify areas with higher cooling needs.
Urgent adaptation needed for warming
The results show that each incremental increase in global warming will significantly affect heat exposure and cooling demand around the world, underscoring the need for urgent and unprecedented adaptation measures.
Countries in the global north and south should work towards the 1.5°C target, given that they will be most affected by relative and absolute changes in CDD, respectively. It is important to address the growing challenge of reducing demand through sustainable routes to ensure a holistic and equitable solution.
The study acknowledges limitations, such as not taking into account the effect of humidity or other environmental variables on perceived thermal comfort. Nonetheless, it provides valuable insights and policy implications for addressing increasing cooling demand in an increasingly warming world.
The findings call for a collective global effort to combat climate change, preserve fragile ecosystems and protect the well-being of populations facing extreme heat.
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