Heat waves & India’s Cooling Sector


    In Context

    • Recently, the report, “Climate Investment Opportunities in India’s Cooling Sector” was released by the World Bank.

    Report Highlights 

    • Exposure to heat waves:
      • From 2030 onwards, more than 160 to 200 million people could be exposed to a lethal heat wave in India every year.
    • Productivity Decline:
      • Around 34 million Indians will face job losses due to heat stress-related productivity decline
    • Demand for cooling:
      • By 2037, the demand for cooling is likely to be eight times more than current levels, the World Bank has said in a report.
      • In this scenario, it is imperative for India to deploy alternative and innovative energy-efficient technologies for keeping spaces cool. 
    • Significance of India’s Cooling Sector:
      • India’s Cooling Sector could open an investment opportunity of $1.6 trillion by 2040 besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly and creating 3.7 million jobs.
      • With the demand for cooling shooting up, there will be a demand for a new air-conditioner every 15 seconds, according to the report.
        • This demand will lead to an expected rise of 435% in annual greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades. 
      • Thus, there is a need to shift to a more energy-efficient pathway which could lead to a substantial reduction in expected CO2 levels.

    What is Heat Wave?

    • It is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season.
    • It typically occurs between March and June, and in some rare cases even extends till July
    • The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.

    Criterion for declaring heat waves in India

    • Heat wave is considered if the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.
    • Based on Departure from Normal Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.50°C to 6.40°C.
    • Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.40 degree C.
    • Based on Actual Maximum Temperature Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45 degree C. 
    • Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47 degree C.
    • If the above criteria met at least in 2 stations in a Meteorological subdivision for at least two consecutive days and it was declared on the second day.


    • The prevalence of extreme temperatures around the world is the result of local factors and also global warming.
    • Scientists have made clear how greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions exacerbate temperatures in the oceans, leading to soaring temperatures. 
    • Anthropogenic GHG emissions are culprit in the current plight from intense weather.
    • Crucially, heatwaves and wildfires are ‘unimaginable’ without human-caused climate change.

    Suggestions by the report

    • India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) 2019:
      • The report proposes a roadmap to support India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) 2019, through new investments in three major sectors: 
        • Building construction, 
        • Cold chains and 
        • Refrigerants.
    • Climate-responsive cooling techniques:
      • Adopting climate-responsive cooling techniques as a norm in both private and government-funded constructions can ensure that those at the bottom of the economic ladder are not disproportionately affected by rising temperatures. 
      • The report suggests that India’s affordable housing program for the poor, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), can adopt such changes on scale.
    • Policy for district cooling:
      • It also proposed enacting a policy for district cooling which could lead to the consumption of 20-30% less power than the most efficient conventional cooling solutions. 
        • District cooling technologies generate chilled water in a central plant which is then distributed to multiple buildings via underground insulated pipes. 
        • This brings down the cost for providing cooling to individual buildings. 
      • Apart from this, guidelines for implementation of local and city-wide urban cooling measures such as cool-roofs should also be considered.
    • Fixing gaps in cold chain distribution networks:
      • To minimise rising food and pharmaceutical wastage during transport due to higher temperatures, the report recommends fixing gaps in cold chain distribution networks. 
      • Investing in pre-cooling and refrigerated transport can help decrease food loss by about 76% and reduce carbon emissions by 16%.
    • Lowering global warming footprint:
      • Improvements in servicing, maintenance and disposal of equipment that uses hydrochlorofluorocarbons, alongside a shift to alternative options with a lower global warming footprint, are also recommended. 
      • This can create two million jobs for trained technicians over the next two decades and reduce the demand for refrigerants by around 31%.

    Way Ahead

    • The right set of policy actions and public investments can help leverage large scale private investment in this sector.
    • India’s cooling strategy can help save lives and livelihoods, reduce carbon emissions and simultaneously position India as a global hub for green cooling manufacturing.

    Source: TH