In an ever-warming world, it takes a lot to keep cool. The United States is known to use more energy for their air conditioning than any other nation in this world. And these machines happen to be partly responsible for global warming. Ironic, isn’t it?
Why is air conditioning so bad?
Air conditionings, as well as refrigerators, use a refrigerant named HFC (hydrofluorocarbons) to cool down your house and your food. HFCs are a greenhouse gas. Only a small amount is blown into the air by using air conditioning but the substance is far more dangerous than carbon dioxide.
This substance is only dangerous when there is a leak in your air conditioning. If it works as it should, there is no problem. And if it is disposed of properly even better. But in most countries, leaks can’t be fixed, and machines aren’t disposed of properly.
What’s the good news?
The good news is that things are done about it. in 1987 the Montreal Protocol was set up, to this day one of the most successful climate agreements in history. This Protocol, ratified by 197 parties in 2016, wanted to diminish the use of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbon) and CFCs (chlorofluorocarbon). These substances were used to cool things down before HFCs were even in the picture. They contain chlorine, which is fatal to the ozone layer (this is a layer that protects us from the sun. Without it we would all burn or die of cancer).
Just six months ago, in October, the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol was held in Rwanda. It was decided that the rich countries need to bring down their HFC production by 85% compared to the period 2011-2013. The less developed countries will have to do the same but get more time to do it.
Now, HFCs don’t contain chlorine, which makes them not so dangerous for the ozone layer. But it is a greenhouse gas, so it is flourishing global warming.
What will the future look like?
Experts see a future with even more air conditioning systems. “People are getting richer all around the world, and they’re buying air conditioners,” explained lead study author Lucas Davis of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley to the Washington Post.
So, more people are getting richer, poor countries are developing faster and faster. Those people will want comfort. As the world is heating up, this comfort will show itself in cooling systems.
Is that it? Will we all die because of air conditioning?
The answer is no. Well maybe, but scientists and developers everywhere are doing there uttermost best to not let that happen. The EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) has approved three refrigerating substitutes for HFCs: propane, isobutane, and a chemical known as R-441A.
Also companies like Honeywell, a company that makes humidifiers and doorbells, are showing their support. The company already invested millions in finding a substitute to HFCs. And they found it in their new hydrofluoro-olefin technology. These molecules brake down in only a number of days and by that are less toxic for the environment. The good news? It is more effective. The downside? It’s more expensive.
Although this is a problem that people are working on, it could be a good idea to prevent these substances of floating in the air. Air conditioning made it less necessary for people to insulate their house. Start there. Just make it easier to not use an air conditioning system. Cut back on energy and cut back on costs. It’s a win-win.