Claim: Air Conditioning Boom Threatening Climate Stability, But More Government Money Will Help

Air Conditioners

Air Conditioners on apartment walls. Jason Kuffer from East Harlem, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Oh no – poor people are getting richer, obtaining more access to modern conveniences.

Fast-Rising Demand for Air Conditioning Is Adding to Global Warming. The Numbers Are Striking.

With window units set to more than triple by 2050, home air conditioning is on pace to add half a degree Celsius to global warming this century, a new report says.

Phil McKenna
BY PHIL MCKENNA

NOV 12, 2018

Increasing demand for home air conditioning driven by global warming, population growth and rising incomes in developing countries could increase the planet’s temperatures an additional half a degree Celsius by the end of the century, according to a new report by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The problem with air-conditioning comes from two sources: the amount of energy used, much of which is still powered by carbon-emitting coal, oil and gas generation, and the leaking of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) coolants, which are short-lived climate pollutants many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Air conditioning, and homes themselves, will also have to become more energy efficient. To ramp up efforts to bring down emissions from cooling, RMI joined the government of India, British entrepreneur Richard Bransonand other organizations on Monday in launching the Global Cooling Prize, an effort to spur development of highly efficient cooling technology to reduce further warming from the residential air conditioning sector.

Growth in the demand for air conditioning is already outpacing growth in solar power, with new residential air conditioning units worldwide consuming approximately 100 GW of energy in 2017, compared to 94 GW of new solar energy generation.

You can’t build enough renewable energy fast enough to keep pace with the growth of air conditioning,” said Iain Campbell, a senior fellow with RMI and lead author of the report.

The RMI report also describes other measures to shift to less polluting cooling, including improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings and providing financing, subsidies, and other financial incentives to reduce upfront costs for consumers.

Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11112018/climate-change-home-air-conditioning-half-degree-global-warming-by-2100

The RMI Report is available here. The report suggests that “… increasing populations and urbanization, and rising temperatures exacerbated by expanding urban heat-islands,1 cooling is, in many parts of the world, no longer a luxury, but an urgent priority for health and well-being, productivity, and in extreme cases, survival. …

If only there was a scalable, low carbon energy source which could produce the vast amounts of reliable electricity required to satisfy the world’s growing power demands.

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95 thoughts on “Claim: Air Conditioning Boom Threatening Climate Stability, But More Government Money Will Help

  1. High-density labor and political gerrymandering are first-order forcings of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    • From this Rocky Mountain Institute’s report, page 4: For instance, only ~7% of households in India possess an AC, despite having extremely high cooling needs (Figure 1.2).15

      So Indians possess the least A/Cs on Earth despite needing them the most, but instead of praising them lets tar them for having the most in 2050 (predicted!).
      If they want to improve A/C efficiency (without raising prices!) fine, but that should go for all A/C users on Earth, not just for future Indians.

    • Hi guys, just a little point. GW do not measure energy. GW (W, kW, MW…) measure power. Energy is measured in GWh (gigawatt hours), or other multiples like kWh, MWh etc… I think, you wanted to say “GW of power”. Cheers Ladislav

    • I saw that also Robert. Short lived and many times more potent than CO2? Sounds quite scary, but means nothing really. Phil must live where they have legalized hallucinogens. LOL

    • “increasing demand for home air conditioning driven by global warming, population growth and rising incomes in developing countries could increase the planet’s temperatures an additional half a degree Celsius by the end of the century,”

      Yes, the key words in this are “rising incomes”.

      How dare they start using things only meant for those at the top. How dare they try to get to the top with us. People that are no longer poor are harder to control.

    • Please forgive me for I have sinned greatly and have had aircon fitted to our house, I know I say it’s for my ill wife’s benefit but who are we to think that we can have such things meant for those who know what’s best for us!
      (sarc)
      It works wonders helping her cope with the effects of her MS which are way worse in the heat, so my response to those who say we shouldn’t have it are you try having a body that doesn’t do what you want and you loose all you energy when the weathers hot and see how you like it.
      Rant over will go have another cup of tea and chill out now.

      James Bull

  2. Quote: “With window units set to more than triple by 2050, home air conditioning is on pace to add half a degree Celsius to global warming this century, a new report says.”

    Is this global, or just one country? two countries? I can’t believe the world is set to triple the air conditioning uptake.

    I smell hubris either way.

    • I don’t think tripling the number of window units is a heavy lift. There are huge swathes of the world with very few air conditioners like China and India.

      But, adding 0.5°C to the global temperature? That is whack even if you accept the IPCC estimate of TCR. It would require the addition of an amount of CO2 to the atmosphere equal to about 67 ppm of the whole atmosphere.

    • Nope the numbers are correct from the International Energy Organization
      https://www.iea.org/cooling/
      Look at the graph or via the press release

      Global energy demand from air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050, requiring new electricity capacity the equivalent to the combined electricity capacity of the United States, the EU and Japan today. The global stock of air conditioners in buildings will grow to 5.6 billion by 2050, up from 1.6 billion today – which amounts to 10 new ACs sold every second for the next 30 years, according to the report.

  3. Which is easier, trying to control the air in rooms or the air around the whole planet?

    If you think the latter you need to examine the word “think”.

    • My alma mater, which/whom I criticize in detail here, came up with the “good” “idea” of non-air-conditioned classrooms by way of a small sacrifice to “combat” climate change.

      I wrote to the head of the school council congratulating him on subjecting his adolescent charges to swings of plus or minus 5 degrees Celsius on a not-untypical Aussie day as a “meaningful” contribution to keeping the world below its 2-degrees-or-die target.

      Finally I asked him to thank my math teachers, without whom I’d never have known that 2 > 5, and asking him to cease mailing fundraising letters to my address.

      (You know, for the envirummint.)

      For the sake of readers other than M Courtney, all words in inverted commas are sarcastic.

      • Brad Keyes

        I composed a response to your post then I followed your link to your website. That was a mistake, self obsessed drivel makes me feel quite ill. You took four paragraphs to say “I didn’t like cricket or Rugby so I hit the books”.

        I deleted my post and can say little more than you are the most extreme narcissist I have ever encountered. And I have met lots.

        I was prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt because you seem to express credible concerns of the conventional climate change narrative, but it’s all attention seeking.

        And I mean this in the most positive, supportive way; you need help mate.

        • HotScot,

          Enough with the stalking me already. I’m happily married. To someone who can read. Who gets my jokes. Who makes jokes. You’re not my type.

          I’m sure there’s some humorless, semi-literate helpmate out there for you.

          • No one is stalking you Brad. You pop in a thread, draw attention to your blog, in which you claim that the holocaust was only a few dozen “local” events and that all people should be required by law (by law!) to be taught your version of German history… well you get the attention you deserve from the more frequent readers. Congrats, you’ve got the attention you apparently crave, so stop whining when you get called out for your utter bullsh*t.

          • Brad Keyes

            I’m stalking you, yet you’re the one who devoted two sections to me on your blog.

            What a laugh.

          • You invite people to look at your blog, then whine about being stalked when they do.
            I agree with HotScot, you need professional help.

          • MarkW,

            LOL…

            I “whine about being stalked” when HotScot materializes in every thread in which I try to engage with more intelligent folk. Nothing to do with you, so your opinion is valueless.

            Brad

            PS I also “whine” (which seems to be your way of saying “chuckle”) about online literacy standards at the fact that people like davidmhoffer and his Thermocaledonian friend honest-to-god believe I’m a German climate alarmist. Honest-to-god. They honest-to-god think that.

            ROFL monoamine oxidase.

          • the fact that people like davidmhoffer and his Thermocaledonian friend honest-to-god believe I’m a German climate alarmist.

            I never once claimed that you are a German climate alarmist.
            I did read the blog you linked to and note the claims you made.

          • davidmhoffer,

            so you merely think I’m a climate alarmist of unspecified nationality. Great. My apologies. You’re only half as delayed on the uptake as HotScot.

          • so you merely think I’m a climate alarmist of unspecified nationality.

            I never claimed that you were a climate alarmist, period.

            If you want to stop coming off as a total jerk you might begin by not accusing people of things they never said.

          • davidmhoffer,

            Backpedalling noted. I guess we’ll never know, and rarely care, what you meant by…

            So the [Brad Keyes] persona and the [ClimateNuremberg] blog and all it represents is real. There’s someone that believes and promotes this filth.

            …if you WEREN’T accusing me of climate alarmism. Anyway, as I requested on the Gleick thread, as fascinating as I seem to be to your ilk, can we please *not* let this turn into another thread about Brad? TIA.

          • Any rational reading of the thread from which you cut that out of context quote would show that the filth being referred to was your blog, which you linked to, demanding that there were certain things all people should be legally required to know about the German people including a disgusting rewrite of holocaust history claiming it was only 70 local events.

            As for not turning the thread into something about you, the person who did that was you. You posted a link to your own blog. You responded with false accusations when that was criticized. Those accused cleared their names.

            Making this thread about Brad Keyes was all driven by Brad Keyes, and now he wants to complain about that too. Go get help. Or just go.

          • Unless you have something to say about AIR CONDITIONERS, Herr Hoffer, thou dost protest too much. But hey, don’t let us stop you advertising, praeter ridiculum ad tediumque, your record-breaking, medical-journal-worthy irony deficiency.

            ROF—yawn—LMAO.

  4. You can’t build enough renewable energy fast enough to keep pace with the growth of air conditioning, …

    I cool my slightly ancient house with a 5000 btu window air conditioner in a climate where the daily highs will be in the mid 30s (C, not quite 100 F) for a week at a time. The secret is energy conservation. A properly built, more modern house, should use less energy. I don’t know what assumptions these folks are using to calculate the future air conditioning energy use, but I bet it’s way on the high side and doesn’t take conservation properly into account.

    • My house has so much insulation in its walls and so much concrete and brick inside the insulation that summer heat – even up to 30C- is dealt with by opening the curtains and windows at might, and closing both by day.

      This allows the house to reach the daily mean and, with remarkably little deviation, stay there.

      The way to build for hot climates is well known. At least in Europe.

      1/. Thermal mass. Houses that can store a lot of heat energy do not heat up fast in te sund

      2/. Overhanging eaves. Let in the setting sun and the winter sun but shade the midday summer sun.

      3/. Insulation. Allows the inside and outside to be at differing temperatures without so much energy required to keep it that way.

      4/. Blinds curtains and shutters. Used to control heat gain from sunlight and heat loss in winter.

      Doing this is a city is far more effective than just aircon alone and would reduce UHI effects also.

      • “Thermal mass. Houses that can store a lot of heat energy do not heat up fast”

        True, but on the down side once they do heat up they stay hot.

        Place I live now is a downstairs unit. Completely surrounded by other units in the block so there are few direct faces to absorb heat from the sun. First month or so of summer is rather nice and controlled by just leaving the front door open for natural breeze.

        The second half of summer on the other hand the building has finally heated up and stays hot. What was keeping the heat out is now keeping it from dispersing at night. Then it is air con running nearly constantly.

        Unfortunately while building smart helps, it doesn’t completely solve.

    • The building standard is a whole other question as I said above the numbers are just hard projections
      https://www.iea.org/cooling/

      Where most will be installed .. so it is an issue for those countries.

      By 2050, around 2/3 of the world’s households could have an air conditioner. China, India and Indonesia will together account for half of the total number.

      Next the Greens left loons will expect us to “pay” or “contribute” to help them build better houses 🙂

      • Having been to China a number of times I would guess a hefty proportion of all AC units are already in China. In major cities virtually all apartments now have AC:s, in smaller towns not so much, and in the countryside they are still fairly uncommon. But things are changing fast, real fast.

  5. the shame….third would countries do not want to stay third world
    …and with that comes more power, more business and industry, more buildings, more cars….etc etc

    and that’s global warming

    • Except when it isn’t. The earth’s “temperature” isn’t controlled by CO2. C02 is part of an immense climate system that self-regulates based on the behavior of water and water vapor. Similar to a refrigerator- when it gets to hot it cools, when it gets cold enough it warms up. The earth has been doing it over 2million years.

  6. “You can’t build enough renewable energy fast enough to keep pace with the growth of air conditioning,” said Iain Campbell

    After laughing for 10 minutes, I’m still shaking my head.
    If renewables can’t do that, then there is something seriously wrong with them. Dur?????

  7. When the Green Folk agree to live the simple life themselves, then we may listen to their pleas for us to also live such a simple exéstance. But not before they do too.

    MJE

    • No. Never. The outfit was started by a nutjob named Amory Lovins, who claimed to be an “experimental physicist” (he isn’t). Lovins propagandized for what he called the “soft energy path” and claimed that conservation of energy is just as good as generation of energy (“negawatts”) — it isn’t — search “Jevons Paradox”.

  8. Our Terrace House was designed by an Irish immigrant builder in 1885 with thick brick walls, small window areas and shading verandahs. It needs neither heating in winter, nor cooling in summer. Much has been forgotten since 1885.

      • Thick brick = thermal insulation. Keeps heat in and the cold out. Also vis-versa.
        Small windows = thermal insulation. Keeps heat in, but prevents airing the house in summer. So I’m guessing a cold area.
        Shaded verandah = hot summer.

        My conclusion; I can’t guess where the house is…

        • Greg Cavanagh

          Think again. My walls are 9″ thick solid Victorian brickwork, no cavity. In the winter they soak up heat from the inside and radiate it out, You could have a nice BBQ on my outside walls in the depth of winter.

          In the summer, the south side soaks up the suns rays and there’s a great opportunity for a sauna inside, whilst the front north facing rooms are still cold, so condensation is a problem, even in summer.

          I won’t go into the rest of the problems with 200 year old houses still occupied in the 21st Century, there’s not enough room on this blog.

          • Do you have a fireplace inside to warm the house that much?

            I’ve never lived in an air conditioned house. When it gets cold, I put on a jumper. When it gets hot, I open a window. So no matter what wall I have, it’s the windows that make the difference (glass is a poor thermal insulator, which is why the English houses have small windows).

            It sounds like you live in a much colder area that anything I’ve ever experienced, but it also seems you have some significant indoor warming too.

          • I live at 60N where you don’t regard brickwork as an insulator. Good 150mm of insulation is necessary; sometimes people use 300mm or even 500mm.

            Brick looks like, but one thing what it doesn’t do by itself is insulation.

          • Well you could always build like they did in central Iran back in the old days where aristocratic houses were built around a deep sunken court. In winter they lived in the sun on the north side of the court, in summer they moved to the shaded south side.

          • Hugs – November 14, 2018 at 1:37 am

            Brick looks like, but one thing what it doesn’t do by itself is insulation.

            Hugs, “brick” is not just good, ….. it’s a great insulator no matter at what latitude you live.

            If it wasn’t, ….. you wouldn’t be enjoying hundreds of things that you are now enjoying, to wit:

            A fire brick, firebrick, or refractory brick is a block of refractory ceramic material used in lining furnaces, kilns, fireboxes, and fireplaces. A refractory brick is built primarily to withstand high temperature, but will also usually have a low thermal conductivity for greater energy efficiency.

            Hugs, the most important thing to do when insulating a home or whatever, is to STOP or PREVENT the airflow between the inside and outside of the structure in question.

            Think of “hothouses” that only use a single pane of glass or clear plastic to keep their interior “warm”.

            Iffen you have a few hundred 1/8” to ¼” holes in the walls and/or ceiling of your house that allows air flow to or from the outside, ……. then that is equivalent to having an OPEN window, …. 24/7/365.

            So don’t be blaming that on the bricks.

    • Most of the older housing stock in Scotland is brick or stone and very substantial. One advantage is that in the occasional hurricane we get here, they don’t fall down. They are pretty lousy for heat retention though, having been build in the days when coal was cheap and most rooms, even bedrooms, had a hearth.

      That said we have a very wet climate and the older buildings will stand a leak or two without major damage. The ones they build these days (of ticky-tacky) will literally disintegrate if the interior ever gets wet.

      For my money I’d rather have a traditional Scottish building even if it costs a little more to heat.

      • Oh yeah, and you can always tell when an American or Ozzie moves in because the building will invariably sprout an aircon unit. Probably gets used for a week or two a year. 😉

  9. Phil McKenna has a master’s degree in science writing. D’ya think he was involved in the writing of Doctor Who?

    • I actually know a current Doctor Who writer from back ‘before he was famous’.

      Blew up the engine in his car. The oil warning light kept annoying him so he blocked it with a post it note.

      Really nice guy to be honest and I am happy for him for finally being able to live out one of his dreams, but I would also keep him well away from anything mechanical.

  10. Lots of people moving from warm climates to colder climates must increase heating demand as well. And cold climates warming must decrease heating demand.

  11. “94 GW of new solar energy generation”
    I suspect they mean capacity, not actual average generation.
    Which means that demand from air conditioning vastly outstrips supply from solar panels.

    • At least it is generally sunny when the weather is warm enough for MOST people to use A/C. (until the sun gets passed 4pm then potential capacity drops dramatically)
      Now all we need to do is quintuple solar generation sources and add billions of battery banks.
      Perhaps solar generating awnings over each A/C window unit that gets sun anyway.
      (All apartments will need to be rebuilt so every unit has only sun facing windows)

      • Thermal lag actually means that AC:s use most power in the late afternoon, when solar power production is already much reduced. The talk about solar power being ideal for AC:s is bullshit.

  12. Yes, and with the precision of what one more window unit will contribute and which buildings need to regulated.

  13. Blah, blah, blah, … Increases in Unreliable (renewable) energy generation can’t even keep pace with the simple demand increases of more A/C units let alone replace supply for existing Reliable (non renewable) electrical generation sources

  14. I’ll give up my air conditioner when Sir Richard Branson gives up Virgin Galactic & Airline, his island, any travel involving fossil fuels, his houses, etc, etc etc

    How is it that hypocrites do not see their own hypocrisy?

    • If Branson et al decide they want to sponsor the equivalent of an “X-prize” for developing a better cooling technology, I’m not going to cast any stones here. As long as they are ponying up their own money, more power to them.

  15. Re-discovering the bleedin’ obvious. Which they will once more fail to do.
    If you pack people together in places where heat can be a problem, then the only viable solution is air-conditioning. “Better” insulation, utilising the “stack effect”, Bernoulli devices? By the latter part of a long, still hot day, everywhere is at, and can be dangerously above, the ambient temperature. AC works by transferring the heat to the outside, which makes the problem worse for those without AC.

  16. So: when they measure global temperature will they take into account all those COOL houses and buildings ?

    However there is a bit of sense here. Any energy use, from WHATEVER source, eventually results in a waste heat output, usually around 30%. This has got to go somewhere. The question is : How much of it gets pumped into space by the atmospheric Rankine Cycle?

    Without answering that question talking about a 1 degree C increase is total nonesense.

    • No. Any energy use, from WHATEVER source, eventually results in 100% waste heat output.

      Also known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  17. In the UK hardly any houses have AC – we don’t need it. There are only about 2 days a year when it’s too hot indoors.

    However, I was on holiday in Canada recently and was astonished that both the places where we stayed (a flat in Toronto and a house near lake Huron) had AC. I kept trying to turn it off (even though it was hot, we didn’t need it), but the owners got edgy (remote sensing or something) so we had to keep it on all the time.

    My point is: does everybody who has AC actually need it?

    • Personally I like to keep the inside at 68-70°F during the summer months. I also don’t keep it above that in the winter.

    • I certainly do need mine, living in Ottawa. As Drake says, the dehumidification is just as important as the cooling. It gets insufferably hot and humid around here for weeks on end.

  18. One thought I’ve had for non-air conditioning cooling would be to run a garden hose along a house’s ridgeline, with three (say) sprinklers along its length, and a thermostatic and delay-timer controlled on-off water-flow switch south of the faucet. So every hour or so in hot weather the roof would get covered with water, which heat would evaporate, cooling the attic.

  19. home air conditioning is on pace to add half a degree Celsius…”

    Air conditioners transfer energy from inside the house to outside (or vice-versa.)

    They DO NOT add energy to the global climate

    They may, however, affect the meaningless calculated global surface temperature by proximity to thermometers.

    • I think their ‘theory’ is that more air cons will force up energy consumption which, due to the evils of coal and oil will result in increased CO2. The CO2 will then drive up the global temp, forcing more and more people to buy air cons just to survive until we enter a self fueling death spiral and The Children, Will No One Think Of The Children etc etc.

      Probably also a few escape clauses written in there as well. Something like ‘one possible scenario’ and ‘may lead to’ just in case anyone tries to call them out on their claims in 5 years.

      The real tragedy here relating to air cons is in the Renewable West where an over reliance of wind generation has lead to supply being lowest when demand is highest. Our Elected Elite recognise this as a problem but seem to believe the solution to power supply is even more wind generation.

  20. Anything that improves the human condition MUST be done away with.
    And while we’re doing it, we’ll rob ya blind.

  21. More air coolers to cool the planet! Big cities fitted with huge bubbles to contain their hot air? Why not carve up Antarctica and ship the ice to cool the oceans?
    Wait a minute, isn’t the average global temperature a chilly 15 degrees C? How about more wind farms to blow that hot air to colder areas?
    Come on people, get creative!

  22. Heaven help us if all those lower middle class people expect to use their air-conditioners on hot, windless days and also anytime at time at night. I mean the shear gall of those peasants to expect reliable electricity!!!
    What is the developed world coming to?

    Sarcasm of course.
    But what is clear to me is the Progressive Elites of today, screaming about climate change, are little different from their kindred ilk of 100 years ago who were vocally advocating for Eugenics to stop the breeding of un-fit humanity.

  23. This article completely misses the impact of increased efficiency as the vast fleet of EXISTING A/C units is replaced. The latest generation features variable speed compressors that can reduce energy consumption by half. The average life of a central air system is 12 to 15 years, while window units average ten. With two or three replacement cycles by 2050, we should expect efficiency to quadruple so that a tripling of the number of units by then should result in a net reduction in the total energy consumed.

  24. It’s the wealth effect, and it’s all the fault of evil fossil fuels. Relatively cheap, easily available electricity as well as fuels for manufacturing and transport have raised, and continue to raise living standards worldwide. As people become wealthier, or at least, less poor, they (shocker) use more energy. But the Green Meanies don’t want that. They want poor people to stay poor, and to die earlier. They need to have higher rates of people dying, especially older or sicker people, due to hyperthermia. Then, they can say “See? Global warming!” Even though it’s just weather, which they know, but sheeple tend to believe it anyway. They turn a blind eye to people dying from hypothermia in winter because they can no longer afford to heat their homes properly, due to “green” energy forcing energy costs to skyrocket. Because that’s how they roll.

  25. by Eric Worrall

    If only there was a scalable, low carbon energy source which could produce the vast amounts of reliable electricity required to satisfy the world’s growing power demands.

    “HA”, ….. the big problem with “blue sky dreaming” is that some grinch always wakes you up. 😊 😊

  26. I recall reading about how much electricity is consumed by computers, servers, main frames etc. some years ago. In the US, these devices consume about 10% of the nation’s electricity output. Maybe we should ban computers, eh?

    • “some years ago”

      Don’t be fergettin that “some years ago” the electrical components used by computers and their peripherals required horrendous amounts of power compared to the components used now days.

      Fer instance, …… revolving RAM storage ….. verses …. silicon chip RAM storage.

  27. The only reason I don’t have air conditioning in Johannesburg’s current 34C degree spring, is that I don’t have a free bit of internal wall to put the outlet! OK, SA’s Eskom is broke, running out of coal, and running its OCGT’s more-or-less continuously – but then some comrade or other has a long-term contract for oil, so THAT’S all right!

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