As climate change causes global temperatures to rise, the understandable impulse to reach for the air-conditioning remote to help us tolerate the increasing heat is, ironically, only serving to make matters worse.
Cooling systems such as refrigeration and air-conditioning contribute to climate change in two significant ways, via direct emissions as a result of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant leakage and indirect emissions from the energy used to power such systems. Exacerbating the situation, growing income levels and temperatures in the developing world are driving ever-greater global demand for cooling.
To counteract this situation, we are campaigning to ensure cooling systems are not only free of climate-harming HFCs but are as efficient as possible. Working hand-in-hand with the global HFC phase-down, greater energy efficiency in cooling systems can significantly increase the climate benefits of the Kigali Amendment – and you can play a big part in making that work.
Do you really need air-conditioning?
If you’re thinking of buying and installing air-conditioning, ask yourself first whether you really need it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that you do because, well, everybody else seems to.
In reality, there are many other ways to make living in higher temperatures more tolerable, from ensuring through-draughts of air in your home and opening windows at night (or at least those it’s safe to leave open) when the humidity outside is lower than indoors to closing them in the morning before sunrise and covering windows with heavy drapes to keep out the heat as the day progresses. Alternative ways to keep cool include fans, HFC-free heat pumps or evaporative coolers.
And don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated and wear light clothing appropriate to the temperature.
If you do purchase air-conditioning:
Ensure it’s not a system run on HFCs or any of its various blends – you can either check the details on the system itself or ask the supplier to confirm for you.
And whatever system you do buy, make sure it’s the most energy-efficient you can get – that way you’ll be contributing to the fight against climate change while also saving money!
Far too many people get into the habit of putting the AC on, cranking it to near-Arctic and then leaving it to run for the day.
You should switch the system off when not needed and, in any event, keep the temperature setting as close to the ambient temperature as possible; this will particularly help when you need to leave the house or office as you’ll be better acclimatised and the change won’t feel like such a shock.