The legacy of Europe’s heat waves will be more air conditioning. That’s a problem.

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Climate change is making extreme heat the norm in most parts of the world, increasing the need for adaptation. But in the case of CA, some experts are concerned about how to balance this need with the damage that solutions can cause.

Global CA sales more than tripled between 1990 and 2016, according to a 2018 report from the International Energy Agency. This growth is likely to continue, and worldwide energy use for refrigeration is expected to triple again by 2050.

Much of the increase in global AC adoption is focused on warm countries like India and Indonesia. By 2050, about half of the growth in AC cooling capacity will be from just two countries, India and China, according to the IEA. In these countries, revenues are rising, giving access to CA for the first time, says Enrica De Cian, an environmental economics researcher at Ca ‘Foscari University in Venice, Italy.

But AC adoption is also increasing in relatively richer countries, including across Europe, in large part because of urbanization and climate change that make temperatures higher, De Cian says.

Many Europeans still hesitate to receive ACs with open arms. “Seeing CAs as a solution to heat waves and climate change is, of course, a bit problematic because of the energy used,” says Daniel Osberghaus, a researcher in energy and climate economics at the Leibniz Center. of European Economic Research in Germany.

Today, refrigeration devices such as ACs account for about 10% of global electricity consumption, and because most of the world’s electricity still comes from fossil fuels, this is an important part of emissions. world. Because of their massive use of energy, “they have a bad reputation,” says Kevin Lane, IEA energy analyst.

Cooling units can especially challenge the mains because they all tend to light up around the same time, during the hottest parts of the day. This problem is evident in places like Texas, where summers are hot and the use of air conditioning is widespread. Texas network operators often urge people to turn off their ACs during rush hour hours to prevent blackouts.

Lane says there are more efficient alternatives to the usual window units in today’s cities. Split units, or heat pumps, can act as cooling and heating devices and can be more efficient than current AC technology. The initial costs of heat pumps are still relatively high, although lifetime costs may compete with other options due to energy savings.

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