With global temperatures creeping upwards, and many of the world’s key boom or growth cities located in the tropics, it is not hard to fathom that our reliance upon air conditioning is on the increase.
The sale of air conditioners is growing 20 percent per year in India, with units becoming more and more affordable for the country’s swelling middle class population. The fact of the matter is that having an air conditioning unit in many developing nations is somewhat of a status symbol and units are therefore sought after items. India’s large population (and subsequent per capita demand of cooling units) is leading scientists to examine the effect of such cooling demands on the environment. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan, the potential cooling requirements of Mumbai alone would equate to one quarter of those required by the entire USA.
The original ozone-harming gasses that were once emitted by air conditioners (chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs) are all but extinct thanks to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which stipulates rules and regulations for phasing out ozone-eating emissions. The replacement coolants for CFCs, hydro-chloro-fluoro-carbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), pose far less risk to the ozone layer than CFCs do however, the emissions from these coolants are more toxic than carbon dioxide.
Air conditioning units use an enormous amount of power. The toll that air conditioning is taking on India’s energy output and power supply was immediately visible recently, with a New York Times article pointing out that the rise in use of air conditioning played a role in this summer’s power grid failures in India.
Still, the units are hot property (pardon the pun) and the jump in sales is not only linked to personal comfort. Studies have shown that employee health and productivity increase when temperatures are kept moderate or even cool, with one study demonstrating that a one degree temperature increase above 25 degrees Celsius in a working environment resulted in a two percent decrease in productivity.
So what are some alternatives to using air conditioning? That is a question we will be looking at on Thursday when we’ll continue with part two of this segment, detailing some everyday tips to reduce our reliance upon air conditioners.