‘Absolutely disastrous’: Air conditioners take a terrible toll on the environment, campaigners warn

In the event you’ve weathered a sweltering warmth wave by operating the air conditioner, you are not alone.

Because the planet warms, extra individuals are turning to air con to maintain cool.

However these energy-hungry, chemical-leaching items take a heavy toll on the planet.

With the worldwide variety of air conditioners projected to triple by 2050, consultants warn that we urgently want to vary course.

Here is why, and the place in Europe it is best for alternate options.

How unhealthy is air con for the planet?

Air conditioners use extra electrical energy than some other equipment within the dwelling. Together with electrical followers, they eat 10 % of the world’s electrical energy.

The typical unit is just a 3rd of what it may very well be, warns Sophie Geoghegan, a local weather campaigner on the Environmental Investigation Company, a inexperienced NGO based mostly in London.

“These power-hungry items of kit usually run for a lot of, many hours a day,” he says.

โ€œOnce you take a look at industrial refrigeration, they’re all the time operating.

โ€œIn keeping with the Worldwide Power Company, by 2050, followers and ambient cooling will eat as a lot electrical energy as all of China and India at this time.โ€

Sadly, energy consumption is just a part of the issue. Air-con items additionally leak hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants (HFCs), gases with highly effective planet-warming properties.

Probably the most broadly used refrigerant, R-410A, is 2,000 occasions extra highly effective than carbon dioxide.

These gases are the “elephant within the room,” warns Geoghegan.

“It is horrifying. Given how many individuals purchase air conditioners, it may very well be completely disastrous,” she says.

Which nations in Europe are regulating air con higher?

Some nations in Europe have adopted measures to attenuate its use.

Italy and Spain have imposed guidelines on how excessive air con will be set in authorities buildings, together with faculties. In Italy, it can’t be set under 25 levels Celsius. In Spain, the decrease restrict is 27 levels.

In France, authorities buildings can solely activate the air con if the skin temperature exceeds 26 levels. The nation just lately banned air conditioned tents to maintain its doorways open.

In Switzerland, some cantons regulate the acquisition of air con. Individuals in Geneva should have a “legitimate cause” to purchase air con, reminiscent of sure well being circumstances.

Germany has inexperienced procurement requirements for public contracts, requiring CAs bought on this option to meet sure necessities. environmental requirements.

International locations outdoors of Europe have additionally campaigned in opposition to the extreme use of air con.

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, saving vitality, or “setsuden,” grew to become a nationwide undertaking for Japan.

The nationwide atmosphere ministry estimated that elevating the temperature of its air con unit by only one diploma resulted in 13 % much less vitality consumption.

In flip, workplaces raised thermostats, urging workers to put on lighter clothes in the summertime.

These are welcome initiatives, however they’re “child steps,” says Geoghegan. Stronger motion is required.

What can we do with the environmental affect of air con?

The very best resolution is to design the place we dwell in order that we merely do not want air con to chill us down.

City planning performs an essential function on this. tree maximization and inexperienced house, positioning buildings to maximise shade and air flow, and adopting water options are essential steps.

In the course of the 2007 warmth wave, French authorities established communal cooling areas (air-conditioned areas the place individuals may collect) to scale back reliance on particular person air con.

โ€œA world the place each particular person has an air con unit just isn’t a sustainable world,โ€ says Geoghegan.

Nevertheless, he acknowledges that some individuals want air conditioners, significantly the weak and people who dwell within the hottest elements of the world.

To fulfill this demand, governments should maintain the trade to increased regulatory requirements.

This begins by phasing out dangerous HFCs and changing them with extra environmentally pleasant refrigerants reminiscent of ammonia, CO2 and hydrocarbons like propane.

The EU’s ‘F-gas Regulation’ goals to scale back F-gas emissions by two-thirds of 2010 ranges by 2030. It’s presently beneath debate.

“Europe’s HFC phase-down is presently beneath overview by the EU,” says Geoghegan.

โ€œGovernments should assist a really formidable overview of that laws.โ€

To assist customers make extra environmentally pleasant decisions, the Environmental Investigation Company and Greenpeace have launched the Cool Applied sciences web site.

The database exhibits best-in-class HFC-free cooling expertise.

Governments ought to financially incentivize the acquisition of those applied sciences, require eco-labelling on items, and undertake minimal nationwide requirements.

“This can be a ripe fruit,” says Geoghegan.

โ€œThe expertise is there, we simply want a legislative push to get the trade on board.

โ€œTo individuals, I might say: actually contemplate whether or not you actually need an air conditioner. If it’s a must to get one, it’s a must to do your homework.โ€

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