Spain needs almost twice as much air conditioning to combat severe heat as it did 40 years ago
The severe heat brought by the climate crisis makes it increasingly difficult to combat it. The need to cool buildings in Spain to alleviate high temperatures is almost twice as high as in 1979, according to Eurostat data.
Everyday reality aligns with European statistics. A good part of the Spanish population endures these days a "major warm episode", in the words of the Aemet. A very unusual peak, intense and early. That is, it is much hotter than normal for May if you look at historical records. In homes or offices, temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees above average must be alleviated. "Exceptionally high", certifies the Agency.
What the Eurostat data shows is that maintaining a "comfort" temperature in buildings requires more and more cooling, "air conditioning", describes the Office. The measure used is the so-called cooling degree-days (ccd).
The indicator reflects how many days and degrees the average outdoor air temperature has been above a base temperature that is considered comfortable. That comfort is maximum heat before having to activate the air conditioning. Eurostat uses 21ºC as a reference.
So, as the summers have been warming up due to climate change, as scientists explain what is happening, more days a year and with more margin that comfort threshold is exceeded, which translates into an increase in degree days of refrigeration. And a greater need for air conditioning (and the energy to keep it running).
In Spain it has gone from 130 ccd in 1979 to 239 in 2021. 84% more. It coincides with the records of the Aemet, which warn that summers are longer, about five weeks more than in 1980, and more intense: "The data is consistent with the perception that each summer is hotter", explains the agency weather.
This consolidated trend in the last four decades is not an isolated thing, but a global one. In the European Union, the "heat severity indicator" has almost tripled: from 36 to 100 ccd in those same 40 years.
In a complementary way, the overheated world means that there are fewer and fewer days when it is necessary to turn on the heating to maintain a comfortable temperature. There are fewer heating degree days. Winters are warmer. Good news? In the Arctic, the ice sheet spreads less and melts more, which alters all weather of the northern hemisphere, including Spain. Last March the heat record was broken in the Arctic.
Eurostat also calculates in which regions of the European Union this sneak of the advance of oversized heat has grown more on average. The Mediterranean countries are in the alert zone and Spain is among them.
Among the 15 regions that accumulate the greatest increase in cooling degree days, many Spanish appear: after Cyprus, Malta, Attica and the Aegean Islands-Crete (Greece), Extremadura, the Region of Murcia, the Balearic Islands and Andalusia appear.
This list confirms the warnings of the Panel of experts on climate change (IPCC) that warn that the Mediterranean basin is warming 20% faster than the planetary average. In the last 35 years it has already accumulated more than 1ºC extra when the safety limit reflected in the Paris Agreement against climate change is "well below 2ºC" and ideally 1.5ºC by the end of the 21st century.
In short, what this data counts is how the population has to deal with a more rigorous heat, either because it is more intense (with higher temperatures) or longer (lasts more days).
Severe heat has consequences. The most serious, on the health of people. In Spain, despite having reduced the impact of heat waves, excess mortality attributed to high temperatures is an average of 1,790 deaths per year between 2016 and 2020, according to data from the Carlos III Health Institute.
Besides, the dire circle that unites global warming, soaring temperatures and large forest fires he was well fed, to say the least, last year. The heat waves that swept the Mediterranean from east to west led to a succession of large forest fires: from Turkey to Spain, passing through devastating fires in Greece and Italy. Navalacruz and Sierra Bermeja –with his famous pyrocumulus– they witnessed.