Hospital cooling impact - equivalent to 75 million cars

I enjoyed partnering with the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, Health Care Without Harm, and NRDC-India on a methodology and report about hospital cooling - the first ever global estimate.

Hospital in India (photo from Natural Resources Defense Council)

Hospital in India (photo from Natural Resources Defense Council)

Cooling is crucial for health. Thermal regulation minimizes heat stress and improves mental function and sleep. Refrigeration prevents spoilage of food, medicines, vaccines and blood. Not surprisingly, hospitals have large demands for cooling for patients and for medical products. Given that hospitals’ cooling demand requires large amounts of energy consumption, hospitals are also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, representing a significant percent of healthcare’s climate impact.

Estimate of current emissions from hospital cooling (Mt CO2e)

Estimate of current emissions from hospital cooling (Mt CO2e)

The climate impact from hospital cooling is significant and rising. We estimate that 365 Mt CO2e annually comes from hospital cooling – this is equivalent to the emissions from over 75 million cars on the road or 110 coal power plants for an entire year. Three countries – China, the US, and India – represent 45 percent of the total hospital cooling CO2e emissions. Japan, Brazil, and Mexico add another ten percent collectively. Absent efforts to improve efficiency and/or decarbonize the power grid, compared to present day, annual hospital cooling emissions could almost quadruple by 2040 (to ~1,360 Mt CO2e per year)

We recommend four actions to reduce hospital cooling emissions without compromising patient care:

  1. Continue to expand the availability and use of highly efficient and low global-warming potential coolant air conditioners, chillers, and refrigerators

  2. Improve hospital building design to incorporate passive cooling and ventilation and improved ventilation and cooling strategies

  3. Take a systems approach to reduce cooling load and capture waste cold, automating where possible and collecting better data that can inform further improvements

  4. Expand onsite and offsite use of renewable power within healthcare

For the full report, methodology, and recommendations, please see here.