The UK is “dangerously unprepared” in terms of cooling abilities should the climate targets be missed, a new study has warned.

However, it’s not alone; Switzerland and Norway have also been singled out by researchers from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling.

According to the researchers, these are the three countries that will see the largest relative surges in days that require cooling interventions – such as window shutters, ventilation, fans, or air conditioning – if the world surpasses 1.5° of warming.

Switzerland and the UK will see a 30% increase in days with uncomfortably hot temperatures, while Norway will see an increase of 28%.

However, researchers stress that this is a conservative estimate as it does not take into account extreme weather events such as heatwaves.

According to the researchers’ study – Change in cooling degree days with global mean temperature increasing from 1.5 °C to 2.0 °C – published in the scientific journal Nature Sustainability, 8 of the 10 countries with the greatest relative increase in uncomfortably hot days are expected to be in Northern Europe.


A lack of preparation for these cooling-requirement days could be bad news for the agriculture sector as these days would not only put heat stress on people, animals and crops, but the increased use of some cooling systems would increase emissions.

“Without adequate interventions to promote sustainable cooling we are likely to see a sharp increase in the use of energy-guzzling systems like air conditioning, which could further increase emissions and lock us into a vicious cycle of burning fossil fuels to make us feel cooler while making the world outside hotter,” explained Dr. Radhika Khosla, Associate Professor at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and leader of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling.

And, according to Dr. Khosla, “cooling barely has a mention in the UK’s net zero strategy”.

However, there is hope, according to co-lead author Dr. Jesus Lizan.

“If we adapt the built environment in which we live, we won’t need to increase air conditioning,” Dr. Lizan said.

“But right now, in countries like the UK, our buildings act like greenhouses – no external protection from the sun in buildings, windows locked, no natural ventilation and no ceiling fans. Our buildings are exclusively prepared for the cold seasons.”

Co-lead author Dr. Nicole Miranda added: “Northern European countries will require large-scale adaptation to heat resilience quicker than other countries. The UK saw massive amounts of disruption in the record-breaking heatwaves of 2022.

“Extreme heat can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even death, especially in vulnerable populations. It’s a health and economic imperative that we prepare for more hot days.”

However, the top ten countries that will experience the highest needs for cooling overall in a 2.0° scenario are all in Africa.

This, Dr. Khosla said, is a “clear indication that Africa is bearing the brunt of a problem they did not create, which should further strengthen calls for climate justice and equity”.