Is Air Conditioning Heating Up the Planet?
Stan Cox is a senior researcher at the Land Institute. His book, Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air Conditioned World, describes the threat that our ever-increasing need for air conditioning poses to efforts to maintain our planetary climate within its natural limits, the limits that all living things on the planet have evolved to thrive in.
Consider these facts.
- With temperatures rising, those with air conditioning will be using them more frequently.
- As people in developing countries move into the middle class, they will buy air conditioners as a high priority item, especially in hot countries like India.
- Much of the electricity for these units is provided by fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming
- New refrigerants called HFC's , which were developed to avoid the impact the ozone layer associated with CFC's, are, unfortunately, potent greenhouse gases (GHG) and these will eventually leak out
Furthermore, air conditioning has encouraged people to move into and develop previously uninhabitable areas like Phoenix, that are inherently unsustainable without massive inflows of energy and fresh water. These people are now totally dependent on air conditioning for their survival.
Cox was recently a guest on Diane Rehm's radio talk show on NPR as part of her Environmental Outlook series. In that program Cox claimed that the overall impact of air-conditioning systems in both vehicles and buildings today is almost half a billion metric tons, which is about 7% of the US total. Cox went on to say that if we remain on our current course, we can expect electricity used to power air-conditioners to increase tenfold by 2050. This is despite significant increases in a/c efficiency which has gone up 30% just in the past few years. He goes on to say that in many instances, air-conditioning is "non-essential."
Article continues at ENN affiliate, Triple Pundit
Air Conditioning Units image via Shutterstock