Currently, there are 2 billion air-conditioning units in use around the world, and the International Energy Agency expects 4 billion more by 2050. There’s a big problem baked into those numbers, but it’s also a big opportunity, according to Rose Mutiso and coauthors, who argue in Scientific American that AC is a human right. The authors—all experts in renewable energy and public policy—understand that AC is also energy intensive. As demand for AC rises, so does demand for electricity, and if that comes from fossil fuels, it makes climate change worse. The projections strike fear in climatologists, but "ditching AC is not an option, and it should not be the goal," the authors write. "Instead of a threat, this should be seen as an opportunity to explore greener cooling technology and encourage the adoption of renewable energy."
While most of the world’s AC units are in the US and wealthy parts of Asia, the need is greatest in hotter places, like Saharan Africa and South Asia. That's where demand will rise the most, as it is simply too hot to work or even rest outdoors much of the year. People die and economies suffer as a result. To meet the problem and promote climate justice, the authors say the first step is to accept “that adequate cooling is an urgent human need.” Governments need to establish stricter efficiency standards, invest in new tech, and explore non-electric alternatives. Also, stop dumping old, inefficient ACs in poor countries and work to lower costs instead. Read the full piece here. (Read more air conditioning stories.)