|During the hottest days of summer, having an air conditioner within one’s home can be a godsend.
However, as the effects of global climate change make temperatures rise across much of the planet — and as income growth in developing countries allows more people to get a home air conditioning installation — experts anticipate that air conditioning could soon become as much of a problem as it is a solution.
According to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, air conditioning adoption will likely boom through the end of this century, causing residential energy usage to jump by 83%.
While the immediate effects of a boom in the air conditioning industry seem positive — it’s undoubtedly a good thing for people who want to get relief from unbearably hot temperatures — the boom’s long-term effects on the environment and for electricity infrastructure can’t be ignored.
With more air conditioning use, there will be more emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, according to The Verge. Basically, as people turn to air conditioning to escape the rising temperatures, they will be unknowingly making the problem of climate change worse.
Additionally, the air conditioning boom will place a huge amount of stress on global infrastructure for electricity generation and transmission. More than one billion people living in developing nations will soon be able to buy their first air conditioner, meaning that energy suppliers will soon have to scramble to meet this massive demand.
While the study presents two huge problems associated with rising air conditioning adoption, its authors also state their findings offer a good incentive for air conditioning manufacturers to make their products consume less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases.
“(Rising sales) creates incentives for manufacturers of air conditioners to find ways of making them better, and that includes more energy-efficient air conditioners,” Lucas Davis, an Associate Professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and the study’s lead author, told The Verge.
The seven billion people who call this planet home are standing at the crossroads of a momentous decision — do we sit idly by and let the effects of climate change grow worse every year, or do we take actions now to stop the planet from warming?
|In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, luxury shopping is a way of life. The city’s central Sukhumvit Road boasts more than half a dozen luxury retail centers in one short three-mile stretch. At EmQuartier, the district’s newest high-end mall which opened March 27, you can shop at Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Prada and likely any other high-fashion brand you can think of.
But all this luxury comes with a price.
According to a recent Quartz article, the air conditioning systems at Bangkok’s malls are consuming energy at an immense rate; keeping shoppers cool in one of the world’s hottest big cities isn’t easy. The Siam Paragon mall alone consumes more than twice the energy as Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, which is home to 25,000 people. It is probably safe to say that this mall isn’t changing the filters on its air conditioners every 90 days, as recommended by professionals.
On April 21, Thailand’s power consumption hit a record level of 27,139 megawatts. Deputy Energy Permanent Secretary Tawarath Sutabutr said the new record is a result of both the country’s persistently brutal heat and the growth of its shopping malls, Thailand’s The Nation reported.
“Primarily, the power consumption increased due to air-conditioners,” Sutabutr said.
With natural gas in short supply, Thailand increasingly has to rely on electricity from environmentally-damaging dams along the Lower Mekong River, along with coal-fired power plants.
Yet in Thailand, becoming an activist to protest against these environmentally-harmful energy practices isn’t safe — in some cases, it can even cost you your life.
According to Al Jazeera, 16 Thai environmentalists have been murdered between 2002 and 2013, most likely by hit men linked to local business leaders keen on protecting their interests.
Jintana Kaewkao, a charismatic environmental activist who famously blocked the construction of major coal-fired power plant in the small fishing village of Ban Krut a decade ago, still has to be escorted by armed police officers wherever she goes. Armed assailants have shot at her house four times over the last 10 years.
“I’m lucky not to be dead,” Kaewkao told Al Jazeera.
Regardless of what environmentalist do, it seems the Thai government is showing no signs of pursuing alternate energy sources to fuel its grotesque appetite for electric power — which is why Kaewkao and her fellow activists remain vigilant for any efforts to re-introduce the abandoned Ban Krut power plant project.
“Despite environmental concerns or issues caused by coal-fired power, the [Thai energy authority] is considering increasing coal-fired generation as a means to reduce dependency on natural gas imports for electricity generation,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration wrote in a November analysis.