icampbell1_DIRK WAEMAFP via Getty Images_air conditioning Dirk Waem/AFP via Getty Images

A Cool New Energy-Efficiency Policy

A single change in our approach to energy efficiency can enable more people around the world to stay cool, benefit consumers, and flatten the curve on cooling-related energy demand and emissions. If we want climate-friendly AC, we need to leap toward the technology ceiling, rather than hover just above the technology floor.

DENVER – Air conditioning (AC) may be cooling us, but it’s cooking our planet.

Countries around the world have experienced scorching temperatures this summer. This August was the second hottest on record. Global warming and more intense summer heat waves, coupled with increased urbanization and rising incomes, are driving a dramatic increase in demand for AC units. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that the number of ACs in operation globally will increase from 1.6 billion today to 5.6 billion by 2050. Over the next 30 years, ten air conditioners will be sold every second.

Air conditioners contribute significantly to the greenhouse-gas emissions fueling climate change, both directly, owing to the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)-based refrigerants they contain, and indirectly, given the energy they consume. A recent report by the IEA and the United Nations Environment Program is the latest to highlight the threat, describing it as “one of the most critical and often neglected climate and development issues of our time.”

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