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Global AC Needs Could Grow 50 Times Greater Than US Demand

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America used to be the king of car sales, but China took that crown in 2009. America also used to be the world’s biggest polluter, but China now has that dubious distinction as well.

Now China — along with India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines — could be set to surpass the U.S. in air conditioning use. By a lot.

The U.S. uses more air conditioning than all other countries combined. But according to a new study from Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan, eight developing countries (including the six Asian countries previously listed) could eventually put the U.S. to shame when it comes to air conditioning use.

Sivak developed an index for cooling demand by looking at mean daily outdoor temperatures and factoring those with population figures and distribution. He then normalized the index with U.S. values. The result is a projection for air conditioning usage if it were as widely used as in America:

If the rest of the world caught up with the U.S., the 169 countries surveyed by Sivak could represent demand 45 times greater than current U.S. demand. If every country in the world were factored in, demand could be more than 50 times greater than in America.

“It is clear that the global energy demand for air-conditioning will grow substantially as nations become more affluent, with the consequences of climate change potentially accelerating the demand. This trend will put additional strain not only on global energy resources but also on the environmental prospects of a warming planet,” wrote Sivak.

Sivak isn’t making a prediction about when this spike in demand will happen. He’s only projecting what would happen if countries adopted American standards of cooling. But he points out some notable trends. In India, the country with the highest potential usage spike, air conditioning sales are increasing by 20 percent each year. And in China, 50 million air conditioning units were sold in 2010.

Two other researchers at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency projected that global warming could increase cooling demand by 72 percent by the end of the century.

In June, the International Energy Agency issued a report calling for basic efficiency standards for appliances, motors and air conditioning units in developing countries, concluding that these simple measures could account for half the carbon emissions reductions needed to stabilize global temperature rise at two degrees Celsius by mid century.

green tech media

10 Comments on "Global AC Needs Could Grow 50 Times Greater Than US Demand"

  1. SilentRunning on Sat, 24th Aug 2013 7:34 pm 

    Energy usage heads to infinity as human population swells to infinity. Earth’s surface temperature soars to the boiling point of water and beyond. Remember – there ARE NO PHYSICAL LIMITS!

  2. bobinget on Sat, 24th Aug 2013 7:45 pm 

    in the real world, heating equipment is often much more efficient than cooling. Therefore, more energy is required to cool a building then heat it.

    The real question remains where will all this power come from?

    Coal and natural gas use will go up with conventional generation. Air quality degradation then demands more air ‘conditioning’.
    In the Western US, hot dry conditions have forced folks who otherwise don’t want air-cooling to seek air filtration because of forest fire poor, even dangerous, air quality.
    Advances in geothermal cooling and PV efficiency
    could help. It’s up to future architects and engineers to permit us to cope. (heavy smoke cools the air but also
    retards PV effectiveness as does a cloudy day)

  3. Norm on Sat, 24th Aug 2013 8:16 pm 

    Simple solution, build fukushima nuclear plants.

    to run all the air conditioners. for all the buildings baking in the hot sun.

  4. bobinget on Sat, 24th Aug 2013 9:39 pm 

    Norm, your a genius.
    In fact, Japan already has fifty (50) slightly used nukes
    As is, where is, available for free.

    You only need to come up with a few hundred million billion $ for the cost of moving and reconstructing those same plants elsewhere. A tidy sum to be sure but worth every penny just to fire up all those window ACs’.

    Construction and deconstructing nukes of mid 20th century design is a total waste of resources.

    The good news: it’s cheaper to heat and cool those big city buildings then individual homes. Fuel cells doing double duty as cogeneration with NG as fuel stock
    is the best we can come up with today.

    BTW, just try to get a mortgage on a US single family home w/o air.

  5. DC on Sat, 24th Aug 2013 10:17 pm 

    Left unmentioned in articles like these of course, are two important facts.

    1) space heating and cooling, constitute the bulk of building energy use, a huge amount in relative and absolute terms.

    2) Healing and cooling is indescribably inefficient, largely due to our piss-poor building design and layouts. Our buildings are designed to waste and leak energy. Office towers, are among the worst, but pretty much anything built to ‘amerikan’ standards is going to be a energy sink no matter what.

    And what is the ‘solution’? Well, usually its something like ‘voluntary efficiency standards’ or somesuch that IF implemented *might* shave a few paltry % of new installs consumption, while leaving the vast majority of old energy suckers working away, mostly cooling empty unoccupied space. And if thats not bad enough, all these new projected demand will quickly swamp(and nullify) any token efficiency standards that industry reluctantly agrees to implement.

  6. mike on Sat, 24th Aug 2013 10:29 pm 

    stop press! Humans build more heat producing systems to make coldness to bring down the heat they just created from the machines they just created that produce heat to make coldness.! Pass the fracking popcorn, this species is a laugh a minute.

  7. rollin on Sun, 25th Aug 2013 1:34 am 

    Buildings here in the US have been better insulated and sealed for many years. Furnaces are all built to higher efficiency standards by far than in the past.
    The number of residences in the US has more than doubled in the US since 1960, yet the total residential fossil energy use (BTU) according to the EIA, has stayed almost the same despite bigger houses.

  8. DMyers on Sun, 25th Aug 2013 3:43 am 

    This is another scenario where the rest of the world is trying to live the way we do, without realizing that the only way we can live like this is because the rest of the world doesn’t. This is where “it would take three earths” comes into focus.

    As much as we wish it could be, there will never be A/C justice. We’re two Earths short of the goal. The best we can hope for is “heat equality” which would mean a return of the sweat which made this country great to begin with.

  9. BillT on Sun, 25th Aug 2013 3:55 am 

    Another techie porn site pretending that tech is going to make BAU continue indefinably. Well, the 1st world is going to come down to 3rd world levels, not the other way around. There are not enough resources/energy to do anything else. Be patient.

  10. Norm on Sun, 25th Aug 2013 4:24 am 

    It is possible to have highly efficient geo-thermal air conditioner heat pump. And I read of a large skyscraper that has a giant ice block under it, thaws all summer and freezes all winter. Efficient. BUT it takes bjg bux to do such things and average po folk can’t buy efficient well engineered HVAC.

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