The use of air conditioning to counteract the effects of rising temperatures is increasing. This has created new barriers to the already arduous work of decarbonizing the economy and reducing emissions. With rising temperatures, the majority of people in emerging markets will not be able to afford air conditioning to keep themselves cool despite rising incomes.
A recent study of air conditioning needs in India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia found that between 64 and 100 million families may not be able to meet their cooling needs by 2040, exposing them to uncomfortable and potentially dangerous living conditions. This will be most noticeable in regions with high levels of urbanization, hot and humid climates, and low economic conditions.
The study, funded by the European Research Council, was led by Professor Enrica De Cian from Ca ‘Foscari University in Venice. It is the first cross-country comparative analysis of how climate and household characteristics are driving air conditioning adoption in emerging economies.
According to the study, AC usage will increase exponentially over the next 20 years. By 2040, the experts assume that 85 percent of Brazil, 61 percent of Indonesia and 69 percent of India will have introduced air conditioning. This will triple electricity consumption in India and Indonesia and almost double it in Mexico and Brazil.
The countries with the hottest and wettest days are Indonesia and India. The use of air conditioning corresponds to climate trends, urbanization and the availability of electricity have a mediating effect.
The study analyzed several socio-economic and climatic scenarios and showed that government acceptance of air conditioning increased in all cases. This creates a huge amount of energy required to power all of these new devices and results in more CO2 emissions. The possible environmental effects of this vicious circle will require further research in the future.
Previous studies of what drives AC adoption have grossly overestimated the impact of income and climate in projections due to the lack of consideration of household characteristics. The study found that the decision to buy AC units in response to warmer weather conditions depends on socio-economic and demographic characteristics.
Other factors such as living conditions, education, occupation, gender, age of the head of the household and where you live in urban or rural areas tend to influence the decision to buy an air conditioner.
“It’s not just the story of changing climates or levels of wealth that are improving. Our results suggest that the acceptance patterns of alternating current are determined by several factors, with different degrees of importance in different countries, ”said Professor De Cian.
In India, the states of West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and Orissa have the most hot and humid days, although these states are not known to have the most common use of air conditioning.
Air conditioning is a luxury item for Indonesians, mainly used in the most affluent districts of Jakarta and the Riau Islands, although Indonesia has the most hot and humid days.
In Brazil, relatively high acceptance rates for AC units have been observed in Rio de Janeiro, although the number of annual hot and humid days is lower compared to the northern states, where urbanization is low.
In the warmer states of Mexico, the average AC users are already high, with 73 percent in Sonora and 77 percent in Sinaloa.
The current and forecast need for air conditioning should be viewed as a quantitative indicator of the need for better thermal comfort in the broader sense. The concept of a cooling gap was used in the study.
Rio de Janeiro, for example, is currently exposed to extreme heat and an above-average use of alternating current. It is predicted that in the future this will shift to a state of greater thermal discomfort, with increased exposure to hot days but below average AC acceptance.
“Increasing electricity consumption for home cooling is a form of adaptation that helps relieve people of heat stress, but it is not a panacea as electricity expenditure limits the possibilities of households with the lowest incomes,” said Roberto Schaeffer of the energy planning program at . the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
“Even those with air conditioning will face a new state of vulnerability related to power shortages, such as the recent Canadian experience or deteriorated power stability. It follows that it is imperative to cope with the growing appetite for indoor cooling by using a mixture of efficiency measures, guidelines and technologies. “
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
By Ashikha Raoof, Earth.com Staff Writer