Sustainability 5, 3116-3128
Global climate change increases heat loads in urban areas causing health and productivity risks for millions of people. Inhabitants in tropical and subtropical urban areas are at especial risk due to high population density, already high temperatures, and temperature increases due to climate change. Air conditioning is growing rapidly, especially in South and South-East Asia due to income growth and the need to protect from high heat exposures. Studies have linked increased total hourly electricity use to outdoor temperatures and humidity; modeled future predictions when facing additional heat due to climate change, related air conditioning with increased street level heat and estimated future air conditioning use in major urban areas. However, global and localized studies linking climate variables with air conditioning alone are lacking. More research and detailed data is needed looking at the effects of increasing air conditioning use, electricity consumption, climate change and interactions with the urban heat island effect. Climate change mitigation, for example using renewable energy sources, particularly photovoltaic electricity generation, to power air conditioning, and other sustainable methods to reduce heat exposure are needed to make future urban areas more climate resilient.