A “completely different approach” to cooling is needed as temperatures rise and pose an increasing threat to workers’ health, according to the authors of the IMechE report Adapting Industry to Withstand Rising Temperatures and Future Heatwaves  launched this month. The report has identified that global efforts must focus on adaptation to soaring temperatures, as well as mitigation.

The report was motivated by the 2021 ‘heat dome’ in Western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest, which smashed temperature records with highs of almost 50ºC, killing more than a thousand people.  The disaster highlighted a lack of focus on adaptation to rising temperatures, said report co-author Dr Fox, particularly in the workplace.   “A lot of people died because they didn't have access to cooling… we can’t work in extreme heat,” said Dr Kent. “Industry is the backbone of our economy – not just our economy, but global economies. Pretty much every country in the world, as we get hotter and hotter, will really need to learn to deal with these warmer temperatures.”

"Maintaining industrial productivity is particularly important because we will rely on sectors such as chemical processing, advanced new materials and biofuel production to help achieve net zero", said Dr Fox. “Many of these industries are in the process of transitioning into the net zero world, and many of these industries we’re going to rely on for many years to reduce their emissions.”

Enabling that will mean significant industrial adaptation to extreme temperatures, both in the UK and globally. “The conundrum here is that cooling is a significant contributor to climate change already, but we need it to adapt to higher temperatures. So we really need to take a completely different approach to how we provide cooling, not only to industrial buildings but also to plants themselves,” said Dr Fox. “We need to think in a whole systems approach, we need to think about other sources of cooling – not just electricity driving cooling equipment.”

Approaches could involve looking at ways to reduce the demand for cooling in the first place, he told Professional Engineering, looking carefully at processes and considering if natural ventilation or the placing of equipment could reduce heat.  Other areas of focus should include using renewable energy, energy efficiency, low global warming potential refrigerants, and preventing waste cooling.

The full report is free to download at https://www.imeche.org/policy-and-press/reports/detail/adapting-industry-to-withstand-rising-temperatures-and-future-heatwaves

The IOR is planning to run events on this topic in the future. 

IMechE are holding a webinar 18th May where you ask questions of the authors  https://eventsportal.imeche.org/event/sessions?id=Adapting_industry_to_withstand_rising_temperatures_and_future_heatwaves4154821992 


Image credit: Алексей Филатов