Experts Warn: Your Air Conditioner is Destroying the Planet

Toni Koraza

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Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

If SNL had a comedy sketch on climate change, AC units would be the star guests.

The very thing cooling your living room during heatwaves is also heating up the planet. Air conditioners are among the drivers of devastating environmental changes.

Colling your living room boils America

The United States is widely covered with air condition units. Some 87% of all homes have an AC system installed. These systems eat up 12% of total American household demand for electricity, totaling $29 billion each year.

Global numbers are even more alarming.

Around 1.6bn AC units exist in circulation today. If you divide the numbers with the global population, that's roughly one AC for every six people. That doesn't sound horrible, but there's a catch. The hottest parts of Africa and South America are yet to adopt electronic ways of cooling their homes. As the global wealth grows and the weather turns hotter, more people rush to cool their houses down. In the meantime, cooling technology is becoming more affordable.

Several reports expect over 5.6bn AC units in circulation by 2050, according to IEA's report.

Ten new ACs are sold every second under this observation, which will continue for the next 30 years.

If we continue down this road, air conditioning could eat up 13% of global electricity output, according to the same report. This output would produce two bn tonnes of CO2 each year.

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Image by Toni Koraza (Source: EIA)

AC consumption in the United States equals the total of what the UK spends in a year.

New York needs around 10,000MW of electricity per second to power its residents. These numbers rapidly increase during ever more frequent heatwaves. Con Edison's grid of 24 high-voltage facilities distributes imported electricity to almost 9 million residents and some 250,000 businesses. The total cost? Some $19 billion a year.

The devastating fact? Almost 65% of New York's electricity comes from natural gas, which is detrimental to our environment. Unlike coal, natural gas releases more methane. New York is not the only city fueling itself with fossil fuels. Jacksonville, Miami, and most American cities use fossil fuels as a primary source of electricity. If not natural gas, then power stations can burn diesel and similar derivatives.

Florida is the second-largest electricity producer after Texas. The sunshine state gets 3/4 of its electricity from natural gas, according to EIA.

AC units account for a big chunk of that energy demand.

The United States is fighting the solution

One energy source could satisfy most cooling needs without destroying the planet.

And people can't stand it because it sounds scary.

We're talking about nuclear energy.

New York has is again a good example of this practice. The city recently closed one of its top energy sources. Indian Point nuclear power plant closed after 59 years of supplying Yorkers. The plant produced over 270 TWh of carbon-free electricity, according to EIA.

Taking Indian Point out of the picture, New Yorkers need to burn more gas to stay warm and keep the lights on. The city is no less dependent on energy. If anything, New York consumes more electricity than ever.

Are you worried that your AC is heating America and other parts of the world?

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