Franklin Schneider has never had an air conditioner, not that he hasn't had the opportunity. "When I mention this to acquaintances, some flat-out don't believe me; others seem concerned for my health, begging me to accept old window units they have in their closets," the New York-based author writes at the Guardian. But Schneider isn't interested. "I sit at my desk in my boxers, drinking iced tea, occasionally swabbing sweat from my neck and chest. ... I don't know what to say. It ain't that bad." If you're one of the nearly 90% of Americans who have air conditioning, you might think he's a bit nuts. But only about 8% of homes in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East have air conditioning; in Europe, fewer than 5% do. In other words, A/C isn't so much a first-world luxury as an American one, Schneider writes, arguing it's time we give it up.
It's not as hard as you might think. After a week or two, your body gets used to an elevated core temperature, boosting cardiovascular function and your ability to sweat, Schneider writes. "We'll be acclimatized eventually by force" anyway since "hydrofluorocarbons, the refrigerants used in A/C units, are far more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide or methane," he adds. Indeed, "if we continue along at our current pace, A/C alone will use as much electricity by mid-century as all of China uses today." And "if that power comes from fossil fuels, A/C alone will account for a half-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures." Just remember, "a hot room won't usually kill you, but a hot planet will," Schneider writes. And if you need encouragement, "just imagine how your grandchildren are going to feel in 2060." His full piece explores a roadblock: Americans' refusal "to be inconvenienced." (Read more air conditioning stories.)