Climate change now a cooling crisis

It has been said that not only are we facing a climate crisis but also a cooling crisis.

Globally, 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost due to insufficient cold chain management or a broken cold-chain distribution process. This is clearly a problem when so many people around the world lack access to fresh food. The latest numbers show that up to 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to food loss and waste.

An alarming thing about climate change is that the warmer our planet gets, the more we’re going to need cooling systems.

It is estimated that the global cold chain market is expected to grow 400% between 2018 and 2027, to about $608.4 billion. However, this global increase in the cold chain will contribute to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, hastening climate change. This then has the potential to cause a feedback loop, where cooling systems alone could become one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses by 2047.


This paradox is the Cooling Crisis.


Looking at solutions, the emission reductions earned by preventing food losses, energy efficiency can bring further gains. Cold storage is a very energy-intensive process. 60-70% of the electricity used in cold storage facilities goes towards refrigeration. This means while expanding the cold chain, we must utilize the most energy efficient technologies available, as well as low global warming potential refrigerants to keep the climate impact as low as possible.

So there is a clear role for digital monitoring technologies with temperature controls and alarms, ensuring the exact optimal amount of cooling is being applied to prevent waste and provide early detection of errors. Real-time monitoring can also aid in the tracking of food shipments, ensuring the journey along the cold chain is uninterrupted.

For Prof. Toby Peters, from the University of Birmingham, UK, the reason why a better cold economy is really important is when you think about the three big goals the world has set itself. “There are the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Montreal Protocol, along with the Kigali Amendment, on refrigerant use. The cold chain underpins all of them. If you want to feed the world, you need more resilient food supplies that can deliver food and reduce waste. Less waste means less water is being used and fewer resources, while farmers’ incomes increase. Equally, if you can keep medicines and vaccines at the right temperature up to the moment they are delivered, you can improve health. Then there is the impact of the cold chain on the climate – all the energy used and emissions that come from burning fossil fuels to keep them running. And finally, the refrigerants themselves are also potent greenhouse gases. If we want to meet these goals, then solving the problems of the cold chain is going to be essential.”


If each of us on this planet perform at least one conscious act to minimize our impact on the environment, we can accomplish saving it together. The cost of inaction is higher than the opposite.