UN Warns Nations Must Dump Inefficient Air Conditioners in Order to Act on Climate

As Electrek reported, a new UN report has shown that if households around the world stop using poorly made air conditioning units in addition to ensuring they’re manufactured twice as efficiently as they are now, this would make a significant contribution to keeping to the Paris Agreement’s targets of a global temperature rise of 1.5C by 2050.

People need to be protected from extreme heat, which will in part require ensuring everyone has access to air conditioning–something the City of New York is working to implement. We will also need better policy and city and building design to keep help keep cities and people cooler.

Especially as nations are working to recover and rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s an opportune time to address air conditioning and cooling/heating efficiency. As Inger Andersen, the Executive-Director of the United Nations Environment Programme said, nations “have an opportunity to use their resources wisely to reduce climate change, protect nature and reduce risks of further pandemics. Efficient, climate-friendly cooling can help to achieve all of these goals.

Why This Matters: As our planet warms and extreme heatwaves become longer and more deadly, more people will require air conditioning to stay cool and safe. In fact, it’s estimated that around two-thirds of the world’s households could have an air conditioner by 2050, and the demand for energy to cool buildings will triple. We must be proactive rather than reactive in how we will cool buildings without generating staggering emissions.

The Details: The Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report, from the UNEP and the International Energy Agency (IEA), shows that up to 460 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions – roughly the amount produced over an eight-year period – could be cut over the next four decades by making air conditioners twice as efficient as they are now: by 2050, it would be possible to save the amount of electricity produced by all the coal-fired power stations in China and India in 2018, saving up to $2.9 trillion.

(you can read more about the specifics of the report in the accompanying press release)

FYI: Unrelated to cooling efficiency, but very pertinent to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study conducted by the University of Maryland shows just how quickly the virus can circulate around the home. Researcher Dr. David Krause said central air conditioning, in particular, can disperse the virus from room-to-room.

“If you have someone that you’re trying to isolate and who is either sick or is positive with COVID — we want to make sure their room is isolated from the home central air conditioning system,” Krause said. “That can be achieved using either a wall unit or a window unit.”

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