Questions for ‘New technologies could keep people cool in a warming world’  

an aerial photo of Sydney, Australia on a hot and hazy day. At the bottom of the image are houses perched on a sea cliff. Towards the top of the picture the Sydney skyline can be seen.

People around the world will experience more days of extreme heat as climate change continues. Without ways to stay cool, those days will be uncomfortable at best. At worst, excessive heat will threaten people’s lives.

Andrew Merry/Moment/Getty Images Plus

To accompany ‘New technologies could keep people cool in a warming world


Before Reading:

  1. List three different tools or methods for keeping buildings cool on the hottest days of summer. On what kind of energy does each of these operate? Which do you think is the most environmentally friendly cooling option? Which do you think is the most environmentally unfriendly? Explain your answers.
  2. What is a “greenhouse gas”? What is the “greenhouse effect”? (Feel free to do a quick internet search if you aren’t sure.) Describe what you think of when you think of a greenhouse. How is a greenhouse gas similar to a greenhouse?
  3. Imagine you leave a metal spoon in the refrigerator for a few hours, then take it out and hold it in your hand. How does the temperature of your hand change while holding the spoon? How does the temperature of the spoon change? These temperature changes result from flow of heat, which happens when energy in the form of heat leaves one object and moves into another. Do you think the heat is moving from spoon to hand or from hand to spoon? Briefly explain your answer.

During Reading:

  1. What is Climate Central?
  2. List three countries that experienced severe heat in 2021.
  3. Why did many communities in the Pacific Northwest not have access to air conditioners in 2021? 
  4. Why might the increased usage of air conditioners worsen the climate-change problem? 
  5. What is “evaporative cooling”? How does the new A/C system built by Eric Kozubal’s team use evaporative cooling differently than standard A/C units?
  6. How do barocaloric materials respond to pressure changes? How do such changes allow these materials to absorb heat?
  7. What is unique about magnetocaloric materials? Do their atoms become more ordered or more disordered as these materials absorb heat? 
  8. How does the special window coating that’s described in this story help moderate temperature?
  9. How might paint color choices help buildings stay cool?
  10. According to current estimates, how will the number of days with dangerous heat change by the end of this century?

After Reading:

  1. How important do you think it is to find efficient cooling technologies? Will our need for cooling technologies increase, decrease or remain unchanged over the next 10 years? Explain your answer.
  2. Imagine a school in a hot, sunny region that uses lots of electricity yearly to run air conditioners. The principal becomes concerned about how much electricity is being used to keep the building cool. The principal asks you for ideas on how the school might reduce the electricity required to keep classrooms cool. Suggest one change that the school could make to achieve this goal. Support your recommendation with data from this story.