Andrijevic, M., Byers, E.A., Mastrucci, A., Smits, J., Fuss, S.

Future cooling gap in shared socioeconomic pathways

in Environmental Research Letters, 26.08.2021

Peer Review , Sustainable Resource Management and Global Change

The extent to which societies will globally be able to adapt to climate change is not well understood. Here we analyze socioeconomic dimensions of adaptive capacity of populations to deal with heat stress and find income, urbanization and income inequality to be important factors in explaining adaptation to heat stress with air conditioning. Using the scenario framework of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, we estimate the future cooling gap, which represents the difference between the population exposed to heat stress and the population able to protect against heat stress with air conditioning. Depending on the scenario of socioeconomic development, total population affected by the cooling gap may vary between 2 billion and 5 billion people in 2050, with the scenario-dependent range widening further towards the end of the century. Our analysis shows vast regional inequalities in adaptive capacity for one of the most universal manifestations of climate change, underscoring the need to account for the different potential levels of adaptive capacity in assessments of climate change impacts.