Many individuals have personally experienced that when folks are uncomfortable warm, they are correspondingly cranky. And many studies have found a correlation between rising temperatures and violence. But as we experience more extreme heat episodes around the world, scientists are finding that heat may not only increase our aggression but also reduce our coping mechanisms and lower our cognitive abilities.
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And who is likeliest to be affected by extreme heat? Lower-income individuals and countries with no way to cool off. “The physiological effects of heat may be universal, but the way it manifests … is highly unequal,” said economist R. Jisung Park of UCLA, as reported by Science News.
Park analyzed test scores of nearly a million New York City students who took a combined 4.5 million exams between 1999 and 2011. Students took tests in rooms in their home schools with temperatures ranging from 59 to almost 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Park concluded that if the temperature was about 90 degrees or higher, students were 10% less likely to pass their test than if the exam day temperature had been a balmy 75. Park also did a nationwide review of 21 million PSAT scores, examining data from weather stations and digging up info on schools’ air conditioning systems. The verdict? The air conditioning gap of schools in lower-income neighborhoods could account for between 3-7% of the PSAT’s notorious racial achievement gap.
Things are even worse on hot days outside the classroom. Violent crime can rise 12% in Los Angeles on 95 degree days compared to when the temperature is 65 to 70 degrees. But this, too, is uneven. “Beverly Hills doesn’t have much violent crime on any of those days,” said environmental economist Matthew Kahn of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, as reported by Science News. “But in the poorest communities in Los Angeles, you see a larger correlation between heat and violence.”
So, does fairness mean everybody should have air conditioning? Uh, maybe not. In 2018, AC and other cooling equipment hogged about 17% of the globe’s total electricity demand. And as emerging economies install more AC units, we’re going to be even farther from hitting those Paris agreement targets. Instead of more fossil fuel-powered AC, cooling through green energy could be a strong solution.
Via Science News
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