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How Air Conditioning Creates a Climate Feedback Loop
Impact June 28, 2021

Air conditioners consume huge amounts of energy and that’s adding to climate change.

The US uses as much electricity to keep buildings cool as the entire continent of Africa uses for all its electrical needs. By 2050, the energy demand for indoor cooling is estimated to be 300 percent higher than levels today, making cooling the largest use of electricity in the global buildings sector. And that electricity largely comes from power stations that generate CO2, adding to the warmer climate.

Air conditioning also pumps heat out straight into the atmosphere. That extra heat makes cities hotter, raising nighttime temperatures by up to 2C (5F), which then encourages people to turn up their air conditioning even higher.

The need for air conditioning is expanding as extreme heat waves start earlier in the summer and are hotter and more frequent. Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, estimates global warming has made rare heat waves 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in most of the United States.

With the demand for air conditioning rising worldwide, it’s estimated that in 30 years, more energy could be used for cooling than for heating. And as the climate grows hotter, there’s more need to stay cool. It’s a vicious cycle that generates even more greenhouse gases and soaring temperatures.

Here are some useful home cooling tips from the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Set your programmable thermostat as high as is comfortable in the summer, and raise the setpoint when you’re sleeping or away from home.
  • Clean or replace filters on air conditioners once a month or as recommended.
  • Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
  • During summer, keep the window coverings closed during the day to block the sun’s heat.
  • Use major appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and electric car chargers in the middle of the day, when solar power is abundant.
  • Select energy-efficient products when you buy new cooling equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage. See the efficiency standards for information on minimum ratings, and look for the ENERGY STAR when purchasing new products.

Learn more about how cold air is heating the world @ The Guardian

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