NYU Sociologist: Stop using air conditioning to save planet from global warming

Eric Klinenberg writes at Time:

Earlier this week, as the outdoor temperature in New York City hit the high 90s and the heat index topped 100, my utility provider issued a heat alert and advised customers to use our air-conditioning “wisely.” It was a nice, polite gesture, but also an utterly ineffectual one. After all, despite our other green tendencies, most Americans still believe that the “wise” way to use air conditioners is to crank them up high, cooling down every room in the house — or even better, relax in the cold blasts of a movie theater or shopping mall, where someone else pays the bills. Today, Americans use twice as much energy for air-conditioning as we did 20 years ago, and more than the rest of the world’s nations, combined. As a climate-change adaptation strategy, this is as dumb as it gets…

Trying to engineer hot weather out of existence rather than adjust our culture of consumption for the age of climate change is one of our biggest environmental blind spots. If you can’t stand the heat, you should know that blasting the AC will ultimately make us all even hotter. Let’s put our air conditioners on ice before it’s too late.

Read more…

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15 responses to “NYU Sociologist: Stop using air conditioning to save planet from global warming

  1. Another super intelligent Time article. If this guy really believes that, then he can write a piece on how he did without A/C during the heat waves. I’ve got the live without A/C blocked checked sufficiently, so I’ll just keep mine on.

  2. America may well use twice the air-conditioning energy that we did twenty years ago. Population growth is one element. Perhaps more important is where that growth has occurred: in the areas where summer temperatures are only endurable if you have the option of air-conditioning. I lived a total of 15 years in Tucson, where at least we could say, “Well, it’s not Phoenix or Yuma.”
    Even in Montana, during the brief season when air conditioning is useful, it’s quite a help.
    Large office buildings would likely not be feasible without heating and cooling.
    As far as saving the planet goes, CDDNDT (carbon dioxide does not drive temps).

    • I suspect, Geoff, that the biggest increase in A/C costs is not even for people, but for the computing services that people all over the world use and which are centered in the US. Google has made big splashes about new servers in nothern Finland, but they have a lot more servers int he US that use local (cheap, natural gas) electricity for cooling.

      • I’d forgotten about the computer requirements. Servers are less environmentally vulnerable than they used to be but they still need to be kept in a narrow range. We get more computing power per unit of AC than we used to but of course you’re right, we’re using a lot more computing power than we used to.

      • 10-4, Rob. My office used to be next to the radio-telecom-computer server rooms and when their dedicated A/C equipment went down, things got interesting quick for the communication techs. (If I remember correctly, the A/C system had to be redesigned because of condenswer problems, etc. which solved most of the problems.) All the radio, telephone, internet and data when through those rooms for three very large natural gas processing plants plus the main admin office and several other smaller facilities. That equipment had to stay online and one key to that was the A/C equipment.

  3. Quite a lot of the world’s problems would be solved by the rest of us learning not to pay attention to anything NYU sociologists have to say.

  4. Coach Springer

    Sociologist gives engineering advice while confusing adaptation with modification. AC is adaptation. “{E}ngineer[ing] hot weather out of existence” is modification. After that, it’s all straw in the wind. And Time and NYU pay this a** for his preening stream of quasi-righteous, self-serving unprofessional nonsense.

    He left out the best piece of advice his kind can offer: Say “Ooo, Eee, Ooo, Ah, Ah. Ting Tang Walla-walla Bing Bang.”

  5. Robert Czeranko

    There is a reason that Richard Feynman thought that the so-called soft sciences are not real science.

  6. Just have this wise crack turn off all the AC’s at the University and then see if he keeps his job.

  7. I have long said, anyone who truly believes it is their duty to cut emissions should move to the tropics and forgo both heating AND cooling!

  8. “Strip baby!” ;-)

  9. Bob in Amarillo

    Removing air conditioning from the halls of Congress and from the White House would be a good thing. Then the politicians would do as earlier politicians did – leave DC from May to September and not pass more laws, more taxes and more socialism.

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