Close-up of cooling fan

Photo: Chris Lutke on Unsplash

Future of cooling


The Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling focuses on understanding and shaping sustainable cooling solutions, prioritising passive and less energy-intensive technologies to protect people and prepare countries for extreme heat events.

For billions of people in developing countries cooling is vital for daily comfort, and as heatwaves become more frequent and intense, keeping cool is becoming increasingly important in developed countries. The energy needed for air conditioning is likely to triple by 2050, potentially driving up greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbating the problem it is designed to alleviate.

The Programme's research is led by Associate Professor Radhika Khosla from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment as PI, and Professor Malcolm McCulloch of the Energy and Power Group in the Department of Engineering Science as co-investigator. The programme was established in October 2019 to build together the research base, policies, and practical tools to. A non-exhaustive list of our areas of work are:

  • Examine the scenarios for future cooling demand globally as the world continues to warm. 
  • Inform new and more sustainable cooling-related policies through close consultation with decision-makers and policy influencers.
  • Analyse new technologies to assess how they meet rising urban energy consumption needs, especially in fast-growing emerging economies.
  • Inform governments and communities on how best to prepare for extreme heat events through prioritising passive and less energy-intensive technology, while shifting the trajectory of cooling growth towards sustainable options.
  • Assess cooling as a service and the conditions under which business models for cooling are most effective. 
  • Examine the relationship between extreme temperatures and morbidity
  • Promote human-based behavioural and cultural adaptive strategies.
  • Examine the role of refrigerant gases in global temperature rise
  • Develop sustainable cold chains using phase change material 

The Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling ends in September 2024. For all enquiries on sustainable cooling and heat resilience; please contact Radhika Khosla



Over the past five years we have...

The Conversation UK: How to make homes cooler without cranking up the air conditioning (July 2023).

The Conversation UK: Northern Europe faces biggest relative increase in uncomfortable heat and is dangerously unprepared – new research, (July 2023).

BBC Ideas: a five-minute video, made in partnership with University of Oxford: Solving the aircon conundrum (July 2023).

Education & engagement

Leading academics in the Future of Cooling programme play a vital teaching role on the Smith School’s MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment, helping to train the next generation of thought leaders in the transition to net-zero.

We are developing executive education initiatives on climate action, working with corporations and business leaders to encourage responsible decision-making, and to shape the market now and in the future, focused on the areas that can deliver a sustainable future.

Online course in Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Our sustainable cooling online course is designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to implement sustainable cooling solutions and drive the transition towards a more positive future for people and the planet.

Autumn 2021 webinar series

Oxford Martin School team