Why we can’t air condition our way out of a changing climate
Air conditioning has become an essential part of our lives, especially during hot and humid summer months. However, relying solely on air conditioning to cope with climate change is not a sustainable solution. We cannot air condition our way out of a changing climate for several reasons.
Reasons why air conditioning every building is not the answer to coping with a changing climate:
1. Energy Consumption
Air conditioning relies heavily on fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. The increased use of air conditioning has been linked to increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), air conditioning is responsible for approximately 10% of global electricity consumption, which translates to around 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. As such, relying on air conditioning to cope with climate change would only exacerbate the problem.
2. Creates a Feedback Loop
Air conditioning is not an effective long-term solution for adapting to climate change. It is a reactive measure that only provides temporary relief. While it may provide relief in the short term, it does not address the root causes of climate change. We need to take proactive measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing renewable energy sources, implementing sustainable practices and building climate resilience.
3. Limited Cooling Capacity
Even if we were able to air condition every building on the planet, it would not be enough to offset the effects of climate change. Air conditioning can only cool indoor spaces, and climate change affects outdoor environments as well. In addition, the cooling capacity of air conditioning units is limited by the size and insulation of the building, as well as by the outdoor temperature. Air conditioning also only benefits those who can afford it. Not everyone has access to air conditioning, especially in low-income communities, and developing countries. In many places, the cost of air conditioning is prohibitive, and many people rely on natural means to keep cool, such as shade, ventilation, and water. Relying on air conditioning to cope with climate change would only widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.
4. Urban Heat Island Effect
The widespread use of air conditioning in urban areas can actually make the problem of climate change worse. Air conditioning releases waste heat into the outdoor environment, which contributes to the urban heat island effect. This effect can cause temperatures in urban areas to be several degrees higher than surrounding rural areas, leading to increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Air conditioning can also circulate air pollutants, leading to indoor air pollution, which can have adverse health effects, including respiratory problems, headaches, and eye irritation. In addition, over-reliance on air conditioning can lead to a decrease in the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, making people more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
While air conditioning is an effective way to keep indoor spaces cool and comfortable, it is not a solution to the problem of climate change. To address climate change we need to change the way we view the climate, to see it as an asset not a liability and learn not to fear it. We need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions through a combination of energy efficiency measures, renewable energy sources, and other climate mitigation strategies.