How Keeping Cool is Warming the Planet

How Keeping Cool is Warming the Planet

By Avril Saunders, Sustainability Consultant, CvCC

Currently in the peak of summer, many households, offices, and businesses rely on air conditioning to keep its inhabitants cool. However, this important appliance we use to remain comfortable, contributes to global warming.
Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are the most common refrigerant used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. More potent that carbon dioxide, HFCs leak into the atmosphere – where they can remain for almost 30 years. Air conditioning is also powered by electricity, mainly sourced from fossil fuels. The demand for air conditioning units are rising, and will continue to do so as we experience record-breaking temperatures. The International Energy Agency reported an increase in global energy consumption for space cooling from 600 terawatt hours in 1990 to 2,000 terawatt hours in 2016. A 2018 climate report revealed cooling system usage is expected to increase 50% by 2050.

The Kigali Amendment, part of the Montreal Protocol, was established in October 2016 address HFCs. Countries that participate in the agreement have committed to reduce the production and consumption of HFCs by 80% within the next 30 years. If successful, the phase-out has the potential to reduce global warming up to 0.5° C by the end of 2100. Other efforts to combat HFC emissions include the installation of energy efficient systems and updating faulty or outdated cooling units. Harnessing renewable resources instead of fossil fuels to power air conditioning further reduces emissions. Staying cool does not have to make the Earth warmer. Innovative technologies and effective policies to curb emissions allow us to seeking relief from the heat without contributing to it.

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