air conditioning climate
Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Air conditioning: the benefits, problems and alternatives

Amid record-breaking heat, increased access to air conditioning could save lives – but AC units are damaging the environment, writes Dharna Noor in The Guardian. Are there other options?

In a nutshell:

As a result of the climate crisis, oppressive heatwaves are becoming more frequent and severe, with air conditioning units being a popular solution for people to beat the heat. However, while increased access to AC could save lives, it also poses challenges, such as energy costs, pressure on electricity grids, and environmental impacts due to high energy consumption and the use of planet-warming refrigerants. To address these challenges, experts are exploring alternative cooling technologies and low-tech solutions like fans, swamp coolers, and improved building designs to keep homes cool without exacerbating the climate crisis.

Key quote:

“We are not in a position as a species to necessarily think that we are going to be able to find that silver bullet out of this extreme heat,” said Vivek Shandas, a geography professor at Portland State University who studies the impacts of climate change in urban areas.. “We need to be finding the myriad different effective solutions that are socially and politically palatable, and that are sustainable in the long run.”

The big picture:

While AC units offer relief from scorching temperatures and can even save lives, their energy consumption and use of planet-warming refrigerants raise concerns about the environmental impact. Striking a balance between the necessity of air conditioning during extreme heatwaves and the emissions resulting from these appliances becomes crucial, prompting experts to explore energy-efficient alternatives and low-tech cooling solutions to mitigate the environmental toll without compromising human comfort and well-being.

Read the article at The Guardian.

EHN talked to people with disabilities put in increased danger during the 2021 Pacific Northwest heat waves. Activists say accessible cooling centers and air conditioning are key to combating this injustice.

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