Air con­di­tion­ing use to ‘rise dramatically,’ harm­ing at­mos­phere

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The use of air con­di­tion­ing may rise dramatically by the end of the cen­tury, re­quir­ing far more elec­tric­ity and send­ing pol­lu­tants into the at­mos­phere at un­prece­dented rates, re­searchers warned Mon­day.

Re­frig­er­a­tors and air con­di­tion­ers re­lease hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons (HFCs), which can be thou­sands of times more po­tent than car­bon diox­ide when it comes to trap­ping green­house gases in the at­mos­phere and lead­ing to global warm­ing.

Just a slight in­crease in in­come leads many peo­ple to pur­chase air con­di­tion­ers to im­prove their qual­ity of life in the swel­ter­ing trop­ics and sub­trop­ics, where some three bil­lion peo­ple live, ac­cord­ing to the study in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences, a peer-re­viewed U.S. jour­nal.

Us­ing data from 25 mil­lion elec­tric­ity cus­tomers in Mex­ico to cre­ate a model of what may lie ahead for the rest of the world, re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley showed that a 2 per­cent an­nual in­crease in house­hold in­come, com­bined with fore­casts about climb­ing tem­per­a­tures due to cli­mate change, could lead to near-uni­ver­sal use of air con­di­tion­ers.

“Un­der mod­est as­sump­tions about in­come growth, our model im­plies that the frac­tion of house­holds with air con­di­tion­ing will in­crease from 13 per­cent to­day to more than 70 per­cent by end of cen­tury,” said the study.

“Th­ese are large changes, im­ply­ing US$3+ bil­lion in in­creased an­nual elec­tric­ity ex­pen­di­tures and a 23+ mil­lion ton an­nual in­crease in car­bon diox­ide emis­sions,” said the study, led by Lu­cas Davis at the Haas School of Busi­ness at UC Berke­ley.

“Our re­sults point to the enor­mous po­ten­tial global im­pacts from air con­di­tion­ing. We find large in­creases in elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion on hot days, with es­sen­tially no off­set­ting im­pact from re­duced heat­ing on cold days.”

Al­ready, nearly 90 per­cent of homes in the United States have air con­di­tion­ing.

In com­par­i­son, In­dia has four times the pop­u­la­tion, but also more than three times as many hot days, mak­ing that na­tion’s to­tal po­ten­tial de­mand for cool­ing 12 times greater than that in the United States.

“Air con­di­tion­ing is still rel­a­tively un­com­mon in In­dia and other low-in­come coun­tries, but this is poised to change dramatically as in­comes rise around the world,” said the study.

Na­tions with the great­est po­ten­tial for rises in air con­di­tion­ing use are Bangladesh, Brazil, China, In­dia, In­done­sia, Mex­ico, Nige­ria, Pak­istan, Philip­pines, Thai­land, the United States and Viet­nam.

Re­searchers noted that sales of air con­di­tion­ers world­wide have al­ready “ex­ploded” in re­cent years, with China buy­ing up 64 mil­lion units in 2013, more than eight times as many as were sold in the United States.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has called for a re­duc­tion in HFCs as part of his Cli­mate Ac­tion Plan, and the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy last week an­nounced US$8 mil­lion in grants for the devel­op­ment of new, more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly air con­di­tion­ing tech­nolo­gies.

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