A new programme at the Oxford Martin School which aims to set out the future of cooling is to be led by researchers from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment in partnership with the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development.
Cooling is necessary for the quality of life of billions of people across the world, but rising demand for air conditioning risks driving up greenhouse gas emissions and leading to further warming.
The scale of the challenge is clear, according to the International Energy Agency ten new air conditioning systems are expected to be sold every second for the next thirty years.
A new interdisciplinary University of Oxford research project, the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling, will focus on examining and shaping the unprecedented future growth in global cooling demand, with an aim to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Researchers will study households in Delhi and Durban to explore the rapidly growing demand for space cooling in fast growing cities and consider the opportunities for shaping consumption patterns in a more sustainable way.
The experts leading the project will also look at France and the UK to study the effects of intense heat on health and healthcare systems in the developed world, which are unprepared for frequent heat waves from climate change.
The researchers will assess the health impacts of heat, including morbidity and healthcare costs, and will also work on the sustainability of the global production network of cooling, including on the uptake of more sustainable coolant gases.
The aim of the project is to make important new academic contributions and help countries make more informed policy decisions, by looking at the influence of social norms on determining demand and highlighting where innovations can be made that increase the sustainability of the cooling technology that people will need.
The three-year Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling will be led by Dr Radhika Khosla and Professor Malcolm McCulloch. Its expert teams draw from across the University’s departments and centres, including the Smith School, Engineering, Geography, Medical Sciences, and the Oxford India Centre.
Dr Khosla said: “Shaping future cooling demand patterns is potentially the most significant opportunity we have to moderate the trajectory of energy demand and move swiftly towards the global temperature target to prevent dangerous climate change.
“Despite its clear importance, the implications of cooling have not been systematically examined. This project will set out to change that, taking a multi-disciplinary approach to examine critical and inter-related aspects of future cooling, including technology, consumption patterns and healthcare.”
Dr Radhika Khosla is the Research Director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development at Somerville College, and a Senior Researcher at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment.
Professor Malcolm McCulloch is head of the University of Oxford’s Electrical Power Group and co-director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy.