UC Berkeley co-authored study examines disparities in air conditioning amid climate change

an air conditioner outside of a building
Achim Hering/Creative Commons
The Climate Impact Lab, a collaborative project involving UC Berkeley researchers, released a report Wednesday examining the impact of climate change on accessibility to energy resources across the world. Photo by Achim Hering under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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A UC Berkeley co-authored study examining the effects of climate change on access to energy across the world was released Wednesday.

Researchers found disparities in access to air conditioning between developed and developing countries, according to a Berkeley News article. Their findings highlight the lack of resources in low-income regions amid climate change.

The Climate Impact Lab is a collaborative project between more than 30 researchers from various institutions including UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and University of Chicago. The lab draws upon knowledge from multiple domains including environmental science, economics and computing, the Climate Impact Lab website noted.

One of the main research goals of the Climate Impact Lab is to explore the social cost of carbon, or SCC, according to the website.

“Basically, (SCC) measures the additional damage caused by each extra ton of CO2 emitted today,” said Ashwin Rode, director of scientific research at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study. “(It) results in a range of economic and social damages.”

According to Rode, the economic divide between developed and developing countries will continue to widen under the context of energy consumption and climate change.

As temperatures rise, the demand for air conditioning and cooling systems will increase globally, Rode noted.

Wealthy countries, such as the United States, have the resources and ability to protect themselves against extreme heat. Meanwhile, other countries may struggle to keep up as they lack critical infrastructure, Rode added.

“(Countries) need a per capita income in magnitude of $10,000 to increase energy use through cooling,” Rode said. “The poorest half of the world population is unable to do that.”

According to Rode, large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia are especially at risk.

As illustrated by the study, the Climate Impact Lab prioritizes using a data-driven approach, according to the website.

The study highlights the importance of gathering and examining local patterns of electricity consumption across the globe, according to Rode.

“We really put a lot of effort to get data from around the world as to how different populations respond to different temperatures,” Rode said.

The researchers aim to use this data to make predictions on the future implications of climate change globally, according to Rode.

The study examined the cost of climate change by looking at the energy consumption of 25,000 individual geographic regions, Rode added.

Rode noted that having access to this kind of data is integral when designing policy solutions that combat climate change.

“We need to make policy decisions with this specific geographical information in mind,” Rode said.

Contact Lydia Sidhom at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @SidhomLydia.