Global Growth in Air Conditioning Demand is Warming the World

Paul BeckwithPublished on Jul 21, 2019

Heatwaves around the planet are happening much more often, at much higher temperatures and humidities, with much longer durations, and they are occurring in regions that did not have them before. Thus, demand for air conditioning is skyrocketing. Globally, the 1.6 billion AC units in 2018 are projected to grow to 5.6 billion units by 2050, and by 2050 they will use as much electricity as China does today for all activities. Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation to power these ACs will nearly double, and waste heat from ACs that is vented outside can heat cities by a few degrees.

Paul Beckwith
Published on Jul 19, 2019

What do tipping canoes, phase transitions like water freezing to ice, breaking sticks, chopping down dead trees, the carbon cycle in the ocean, and human relationships all have in common? Answer: they are highly nonlinear, dynamic systems, that exist in stable states until pushed by some factor above so-called critical thresholds. Then abrupt disruption sweeps the systems to abruptly change towards a new, distant, eventually stable state. Rapid increases in ocean acidification from fossil fuel combustion emissions risks crossing the threshold to a mass extinction.

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