Want to Save the Planet? Turn Off Your A/C
What happens when the hundreds of millions of air conditioning units run simultaneously around the globe? The atmosphere pays the price. Air conditioners require large amounts of energy, often from non-renewable sources, all the while emitting tons of harmful hydrofluorocarbons into the air. These greenhouse gases trap heat far more effectively than carbon dioxide, and according to a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute, they could raise the global temperature half a degree Celsius by the end of the century.
Asking people to refrain from using their A/C is obviously easier than said than done, especially for those living in extremely hot, developing countries like India, China, and Mexico. To solve this issue, the Rocky Mountain Institute is launching a global competition, with the support of tech billionaire Richard Branson, to develop innovative new technologies that will make accessible air conditioning more energy efficient. By the end of 2020, a winner is to be announced, along with a $1 million prize to help bring the product to the market.
Global temperatures have been steadily rising since the mid-1960s. Scientists predict that by 2030 to 2050, heat exposure will cause an additional 38,000 deaths globally among elderly people. This number is intensified in areas where water is not easily accessible. It doesn’t stop there; by 2100, 74% of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly temperatures for at least 20 days a year, making air conditioning more of a necessity than a luxury. However, as we continue our reliance on fossil fuels to run A/C units, it becomes a vicious cycle of trying to outrun the damage being done.
In America alone, it is projected that the overall demand for A/C will increase by 1.5% by 2040. Worldwide, this figure is much larger, thanks to an increase in global income. A proposal to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons in A/C units has been suggested, but the move is already off to a rocky start in America. A federal court rejected the Environmental Protection Agency plan that would have required manufacturers to replace CFCs with more climate-friendly substitutes. As for developing countries, they are to start phasing out HFCs in 2029, with the goal projected to be completed by 2047.