Inevitably, they keep moaning about stuffy, sweaty restaurants and nightclubs that go without air conditioning as if it had never been invented.
For their part, Europeans have until recently grumbled about Americans’ fascination with air conditioners: so wasteful due to high energy consumption, unhealthy due to midsummer frosts, and annoying due to the incessant hum of window blocks!
Air conditioning was seen as another luxury item for a populace that always needs everything, insisting on a constant temperature all year round and not thinking about the environmental consequences.
But the planet recently record heat
— and a desperate desire to stay cool — makes Europeans, in particular, rethink their prejudices and shell out for internal cooling systems.
In Europe, according to one industry assessment
, only 20% of houses have air conditioners. In the United Kingdom, which was hit this week by highest recorded temperature
this is less than 5%.
In Germany, it is only 3%.
This is compared to 90%
in the USA.
There was wild run
on America’s luxurious eyesore this summer, which in 100-degree weather is no longer considered a luxury. Right since 2000
As temperatures began to noticeably rise, the number of homes and businesses opting for air conditioning has steadily increased worldwide.
Due to the sultry temperatures this year, air conditioner sales have skyrocketed in France and the UK. climate data firm Kayrros
. The trend is clear: two-thirds
By 2050, the world’s households will have air conditioners.
The vicious circle of emissions
However, the attitude of Europeans – and the whole world – to alternating current matters far beyond the modest pie, which they seem to digest without a single burp.
If temperatures rise inexorably upward
which science confirms will continue to happen until greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, the world will find itself in a supposedly unbreakable chain called the vicious circle of air conditioning.
Namely, the air conditioner is an extremely energy-intensive means of cooling rooms. According to World Bank report
as of 2019, refrigeration technologies such as refrigerators, air conditioners and other devices account for up to 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than twice as much as the aviation and navy combined! At this rate, refrigeration emissions could double by 2030 and triple by 2100, the report says.
When mercury jumped this year, energy requirement
from cooling of all kinds, including fans, went off scale – thus there will be emissions. Last year’s record-breaking hot summer was one factor – including the recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown – in the European Union’s 6.3% jump in emissions compared to 2020, according to data European Commission.
In other words, the hotter the planet gets, the greater the need – in many places in Asia and the Middle East, and in parts of the US and Europe, an existential need – for cooling.
But when that source of energy depends on fossil fuels, carbon emissions skyrocket — and just at the time they need to come down if we want to keep temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. report
attestations are still possible.)
The higher the carbon emissions and the temperature, the more cooling we will need. It’s a vicious circle, a supposedly ironclad logic that will doom us all to even more unbearable summers.
However, this scenario is not a fait accompli, and the means to break the vicious circle are already in our hands.
Europe, at the forefront of developing sustainable solutions to our planet’s ongoing climate deterioration, has already begun to implement technologies and strategies to keep things cool without making things hotter. The catch: Much of this innovation has to do with changing habits.
The first and most obvious way is to increase the use of renewable energy sources. An AC unit powered by solar panels bolted to the roof or located in the yard has no carbon footprint when running.
The average AC system runs on the same electricity as a dishwasher, although high energy consumption requires much more power from a solar installation.
The good news is that national energy systems that use large amounts of clean energy—whether it be wind, solar, hydroelectric, or another source—are bound to experience smaller emissions spikes.
Of course, the European Union is already building clean energy at an astounding pace through its Green Deal. The share of clean energy doubled between 2004 and 2020. European Commission
wants to double that again by 2030.
Now that solar and wind energy prices are competitive and fossil fuel prices have skyrocketed as a result of the war in Ukraine, clean energy is making economic sense on a whole new scale.
In Europe, wind and solar parks produce a kilowatt of electricity per share of the cost of gas and coal.
So switching to renewable energy – for both cooling and everything else – also saves money.
The downside is that the introduction of clean energy will not lead to significant reductions in emissions overnight: the real impact will be shown in the medium and long term, when entire energy systems rely heavily or exclusively on renewable energy sources. And this will take years, and in some cases even decades.
Quick fix: low cost, energy efficient air coolers are no problem, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
He added that switching to high-performance AC units could cut the need for cooling energy in half. More than 80 countries have already adopted minimum energy efficiency standards for air conditioners, enshrined in law, providing energy savings for the entire market.
What’s more, passive cooling strategies long the norm in the Mediterranean and other places accustomed to scorching heat involve natural ventilation and shading: opening windows at night and lowering blinds in the morning. According to one study
passive cooling can reduce the energy consumption of air conditioning by up to 70%.
But there are other sustainable options as well. geothermal cooling,
smart architecture and solar thermal cooling systems can be part of a comprehensive solution to global warming. More efficient buildings with modern insulation, increased airflow and cool roofs significantly reduce the need for mechanical cooling.
Americans could learn a thing or two from the rest of the world when it comes to habits, as the vicious circle is most dangerous in the countries with the most units: China, USA and Japan.
It is condescending to insist on low temperatures in the middle of summer and warm rooms in winter. Wearing sweaters indoors when it’s cold outside, and not because the air conditioner is on so much, is definitely a habit to get used to.
Preservation is now on the agenda: save our planet and deprive Russian President Vladimir Putin of his energy stranglehold over Europe.