A recent paper published in the peer-reviewed journal GeoHealth shows that temperatures are increasingly exceeding the point where electric fans can be safely used for cooling, leaving communities that lack access to air conditioning vulnerable to severe health impacts. Environmental Defense Fund Climate Scientist Fiona Lo joined a team of researchers from The Nature Conservancy and Duke University to examine the connections between social vulnerability and high temperatures, finding that for many regions in the continental United States where outdoor temperatures are simply too high for fans to help for thousands of hours each year.
“These findings may not seem so alarming for those with domestic air-conditioning,” Lo said. “But from what we know about Earth’s shifting climate and the rising incidence of heat-related health conditions across the country, our findings should act as a warning to state and local leaders, particularly in the South and West of the U.S., where communities are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and death. In these places, the need to direct greater investment into alternative forms of cooling, including nature-based solutions and available technologies, is particularly urgent if we want to keep people safe in a fast-changing world.”