AC Culture and Global Warming

An article out of The Independent today looks that the increasing ubiquity of air conditioning worldwide, and its implications for increased greenhouse gas emissions and related warming.

Artificial cooling is becoming a status symbol in developing countries, where individual home units are among the most common purchases once people reach a certain income bracket. Air conditioner use in China tripled between 1997 and 2007, and India is expected to dump at least ten times more energy into air conditioning by 2020 than it did in 2005. A growing urban population that increasingly equates manufactured temperature with status and luxury does not bode well for the planet's already record, rising temperatures.

But before pointing fingers, it's important to recognize the United States as the biggest culprit in over-use of air conditioning, a one-time luxury that has somehow become a "necessity" Americans demand. Americans eat up 15 percent of our country's annual energy consumption just on cooling homes, office buildings, shopping malls, movie theaters, etc, etc. This is the highest rate of energy consumption for air conditioning in the world, more than all of the combined energy used to fuel the entire African continent!

As we shiver "luxuriously" in our office buildings, homes and shopping malls, and Dubai's in-progress Palazzo Versace promises the world's first air conditioned beach, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is coming out with some sobering (if not unexpected) news. Click here for NOAA's State of the Climate Global Analysis, which tells us in no uncertain terms that June 2010 was the warmest month on record, as well as the 304th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th Century average.

Most Americans have had the experience of shivering inside on the hottest days of summer, bringing sweatshirts or scarves to movies, office buildings and restaurants. Scientist Stan Cox, author of the book Losing Our Cool, makes a case for going ac-free, something that has become increasingly (and perplexingly) unthinkable in the US and beyond.