A Free-Market Energy Blog

Conditioned Air: Let’s Go! (climate politics at war with itself)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 3, 2022

“The have’s are ‘terrified’ that the rest of the world joins in with modern appliances. And no need to check your premises about climate alarmism and wind, solar, and the rest of it. Once an alarmist, always an alarmist.”

How many times can a climate alarmist get nudged by reality? How many defeats will be enough to get the Net Zero crowd to take a fresh look at the science of CO2 benefits and global lukewarming?

Here is yet another example. Manmade global warming = heat waves = more conditioned air = more greenhouse gas emissions = [repeat]. Consider an article by Leslie Hook, Financial Times (July 15, 2022), The Lure of Air Conditioners Ignores the Vicious Climate Cycle, subtitled “more cooling systems may seem the simplest solution to warming houses but it only aggravates the problem.”

She begins:

Warm summer evenings have come to the UK, leaving the country sleepless in the heat. But when Brits reach for the air conditioning, they find that it is not there. Just 1 per cent of buildings in the UK have fixed cooling systems, one of the lowest rates in Europe, and a further 3-5 per cent have portable cooling systems.

So adaption and progress, right? Enter the A/C world of comfort.

[This low penetration] is likely to change as summers get warmer. By 2035, around 20 per cent of London homes will need air conditioning, according to a recent report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. By 2075, around 50 per cent will. That’s a lot of new AC units.

Good news for solving a problem that has periodically plagued Europeans for generations? … No!

These will use huge amounts of electricity, far more than any other appliance in the house — and they will have an emissions impact to match. In this way, the easiest household solution to more warming — more cooling — aggravates the problem. At the moment though, even those who may want to buy an air con unit can’t get one, not only because of the heatwave, but due to supply chain shortages of the circuit boards that control the temperature and air flow.

The demand is here–supply must catch up.

“It was bad last year, but it is worse this year,” said Garrion Leeds, owner of an air-conditioning installation company in Gloucester. “Whether it’s a combination of Brexit, chips, and lack of shipping — it just seems to be a perfect storm.” As the UK embarks on its air conditioning spending spree, it mirrors a transition that is already under way in much hotter places. In India, Indonesia or Brazil, air conditioner demand is soaring as incomes rise. Owning an air conditioning unit can be life-changing for those living in tropical climates.

The world is ready for conditioned air:

By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s households will have an air conditioner. Collectively, this will have a gigantic impact on our energy usage. Global air conditioning demand will triple by 2050 — requiring additional electricity capacity equivalent to the current capacity of the US, EU and Japan combined. That’s according to the International Energy Agency, which has for several years been warning of a “cool crunch” as this surge in demand starts to hit electricity grids. AC and fans already account for around 10 per cent of the world’s electricity consumption.

Will the grid be ready for the higher summer peak? (Will she mention the problem of windpower during the day and solar at night?)

And they are particularly challenging for electricity grids because demand surges on hot days — often threatening blackouts if the grid can’t keep up. All the new units currently being bought by sweaty customers will also have an emissions impact: from the carbon dioxide produced by the electricity grid (unless it is all clean power) and the leakage of refrigerants in individual units. Yet as the planet gets warmer, more AC will be necessary to sustain human life in the world’s hottest places, driving a vicious cycle.

And some social justice talk. (Will she mention the problem of energy costs and reliability on the poor?)

Access to air conditioning exacerbates the injustice at the root of climate change: people who are poor produce the least emissions, yet they are also the most exposed to the effects of warming. Meanwhile the rich can afford to buy their way out of it, or at least make themselves more comfortable.

Leslie Hook (leslie.hook@ft.com) concludes:

There are some solutions to this dilemma, but none are perfect. Better-designed buildings, with more insulation, can help to combat the heat. Shutters closed in the day time can keep out the sun. And more efficient AC units can make a big difference to the amount of emissions produced as a result. But as the UK grapples with its heatwave, the rush for air con is a reminder that climate change will make all of us adapt. Londoners sweating in a 36C heatwave is a mild example of a force that is much deadlier and more devastating elsewhere: look at the current wildfires raging across Portugal and Spain, or the deadly flooding in Sydney. Cutting emissions now could help to lower our need for air conditioning in the future.


I then had this exchange on social media that began with my response to this comment:

The thought of billions that do not have AC now but will either have the means or the needs in the next 50 years terrifies me.

Our power consumption on a world scale is going to go exponential – using the same methods to generate energy is either going to cause extinction or global population collapse. We have to find a better way. To survive we are going to have to have a massive new infrastructure plan – we should be putting a majority of our collective societies effort into this instead of figuring out how to get people to click on things or buys stuff.

I replied:

Mr. Stewart: Do you have A/C? This sounds both elitist and authoritarian.

He responded:

I think you misunderstood my comment – the amount of energy increase needed to lift the world out of poverty conditions is going to be huge. We need to start working on those solutions now- continuing on the same means and methods is going to result in either extinction or global population collapse.

It is neither elitist or authoritarian- I never advocated for people to not have access to A/C or other life necessities that require energy – only that we have to address those problems and not just our head in the sand and assume the status quo can continue forever without consequences.

I then responded:

Net Zero means either we lose our A/C or the wanna-be’s never get their A/C. So tell me, what are you saying?

And this is all a global government plan, right?

It is far better to ditch Net Zero (if it even still alive, realistically) and stop coating the landscape with industrial wind turbines and solar arrays–and battery packs.

Real pollution is declining as energy demand increases–that is the good news and where the concern needs to be. Not on CO2.

He then replied:

Well I have a much better perspective of where you are coming from. I don’t really want to engage in discussions where one side frames up that CO2 isn’t a problem.

All I was saying is that the problem isn’t just our energy demand now, it’s going to be the additional demands that will be required as others gain access or have needs of Energy intensive services like more A/C or more Transportation, more flights, more needs for chemical fertilizers just to feed everyone.

And there you have it. The have’s are “terrified” that the rest of the world joins in with modern appliances. And no need to check your premises about climate alarmism and wind, solar, and the rest of it. Once an alarmist, always an alarmist.

One Comment for “Conditioned Air: Let’s Go! (climate politics at war with itself)”

Leave a Reply