The 10 hottest years ever recorded have all occurred since 1998, with 2016 shaping up to be the warmest one yet. Already, last year absolutely shattered the record for the hottest year ever. And the warmer it gets, naturally, the more people use their air conditioning systems.
These aren’t simply luxury items, either. As summers grow more intense, young children and the elderly can die in severe heat waves.
According to a new study, that’s only making global warming worse. Of course, it seems obvious in retrospect. After all, it’s one of the most basic laws of the universe. For every action, there is an equal yet opposite reaction. The colder you make it inside your home, the warmer it gets outside.
“The more cooling you have, the more heat air-conditioning systems release into the urban environment, which then elevates the ambient temperature and further increases the cooling demand,” said Afshin Afshari, a professor with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
Of course, there’s not a one-to-one direct correlation between the temperature inside your home and the temperature of the air outside. But HVAC systems are energy-hungry machines, so the more human beings rely on heating and air conditioning, the higher energy consumption goes up as well.
And since most energy is still produced through the burning of fossil fuels, that means more greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere. Simply installing an HVAC unit incorrectly can increase a home’s energy consumption by up to 30%.
Here’s the problem: the world HVAC industry is growing fast, and not because of warmer temperatures, although that doesn’t help.
Here in the United States, air conditioning has been a part of daily life for two generations. Yet globalization has only recently opened up the market for air conditioning systems in countries like Brazil, India, and Indonesia.
A new report from Berkeley National Laboratory Study found that AC unit sales are growing by 10 to 15% in developing countries with emerging economies, which also have some of the highest population growth in the world. The study concludes that the global supply of AC units will spike from 900 million in 2015 to 1.6 billion by 2030.
That’s great news for the millions of people who won’t have to suffer through heat waves over the summer, but bad news for the environment. Already, U.S. scientists are researching ways to develop super efficient new AC units for the warmer years to come.