- In the next three decades, the air conditioning units will increase by almost 400% worldwide.
- This will contribute to hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
- By 2100, the use of air conditioners alone will increase the average temperature of Earth by 0.5°C.
In developing countries, Air Conditioners (ACs) indicate a sign of progress. Urbanization and increasing incomes will see a significant growth in ACs: it’s expected that room air conditioning units will increase from 1.2 billion to 4.5 billion, out of which India alone will account for more than 1 billion units. This poses a serious threat to climate change and rising temperatures.
India will see exceptional growth over the next three decades. As of 2016, the country has nearly 26.3 million units installed in rooms and offices, which will cross the one billion mark by 2050. India is already facing severe air pollution and ACs will make things even worse unless some revolutionary innovation comes along.
In hot countries like India, Mexico, and China, the need for cooling has become necessary for productivity, well-being, and, in extreme scenarios, for survival. As the climate warms, our dependence on ACs for thermal comfort increases. These energy-consuming units emit a lot of greenhouse gases as refrigerants and cause further increase in average global temperature, forming a vicious cycle.
This estimated increase in AC units will need 3 times more electricity than current requirements. And if we continue to carry on with the same cooling technology, the temperature of the Earth will rise by 1/2 degree Celsius through the use of ACs alone by 2100.
According to the World Health Organization, the heat exposure would cause an additional 38,000 deaths per year in elderly people worldwide. In 2017, a study published in Nature reported that nearly 74% of the world’s population would be exposed to harmful temperatures for a minimum of 20 days a year by the end of this century.
That’s why it’s necessary to control every factor that is contributing to global warming. The existing cooling technology consumes massive amounts of energy and the majority of electricity production relies on fossil fuels, which further increases air pollution. All that additional air pollution may lead to another 1,000 deaths per year in the United States by 2050.
Need For Innovative Cooling Solution
Recently, Rocky Mountain Institute published a report that sheds light on the urgent requirement for efficient, environmental-friendly cooling system. They also announced a program to reward the solution/prototype that leaves 5 times less impact on climate.
The report shows that the 5 times more efficient system would prevent nearly 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, which may reduce half degree Celsius in global warming by 2100. This positive impact would also reduce the burden of electricity grids, saving over $1.4 trillion in capital spending.
Numerous emerging technologies like thermoelectric cooling, magnetocaloric cooling, advanced dehumidification using enhanced desiccant materials, thermionic cooling, and deep space radiative cooling have shown promising results in their prototype phases for lower cost and energy consumption. They all have the potential to compete with traditional vapor compression mechanisms and offer further opportunities for lower climate impact.