'Cooling gap' widens, despite rising heat, as pandemic hikes poverty

(Reuters, 5 May 2021) Coronavirus-related economic downturns mean more people are struggling to stay cool as climate change brings stronger heatwaves, researchers say.

Rising poverty, as the coronavirus pandemic slows economies, means an extra 50 million people this year may struggle without air conditioners, fans or other cooling devices needed to keep them healthy and productive, researchers warned Wednesday.

As governments see their budgets squeezed, some will lack cash to expand access to electricity, and even connected families may not be able to afford cooling, said researchers from Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), a U.N.-partnered organisation working on universal access to clean energy.

The widening cooling gap is expected to be worst in South Asia - where countries including India are now battling both more severe heatwaves and runaway COVID-19 infections - and, to a lesser extent, in sub-Saharan Africa, they said.

As climate change brings increasingly intense and risky heat extremes around the world, the decline in cooling access could have big impacts on health and productivity, said Brian Dean, head of energy efficiency and cooling for SEforALL.

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Reuters, 5 May 2021: 'Cooling gap' widens, despite rising heat, as pandemic hikes poverty