The Global South, much of it in warm tropical latitudes, is expected to double its total energy demand by 2050. In addition to increased mean demand, greater demand for space cooling during external temperature peaks will exacerbate the strain on already fragile energy networks. Recent anecdotal evidence that a proportion of the increase in cooling demand is driven by cold—rather than warm—indoor thermal discomfort, suggests the imposition of an unnecessary cooling energy cost. Here, we investigate the impact of this cost on the expanding Global South using field data from four cities in India, Philippines, and Thailand. We observe that mean cold discomfort across the four cities is roughly 45 percentage points higher than warm discomfort, suggesting warmer indoor temperatures would not only lower overall discomfort but also reduce cooling energy demand. Computer simulations using a calibrated building model reveal that average savings of 10%/Kelvin and peak reductions of 3%–19%, would be feasible across the expected external temperature range in these cities. This suggests that more climatically appropriate indoor thermal comfort standards in the Global South would not only significantly counteract the expected rise in energy demand, but also produce more comfortable indoor conditions and reduce peak demand.
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