Jul. 3rd, 2006

Here's a fascinating little article about the impact that air conditioning has had on the american economy and society, with the expected consequences for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

I've been thinking about air conditioning a fair amount, recently. I'm on the climate action committee at the Mothership, where green house gas emissions have increased over 50% since 1990. A big part of that increase is due to the addition of a bunch of big buildings that are, guess what, air conditioned. The people from our facilities department who are on the committee say that air conditioning is the standard, that all of the future residents of buildings expect air conditioning. But that clearly wasn't always the case, as there are plenty of old buildings at the mothership that weren't air conditioned.

I also used to work at a place that didn't have air conditioning, and now I work at one that does. There were definitely some days every summer at the old workplace when none of us got much done, but the article makes the interesting point that that decrease in summer productivity was the cultural norm: people left work early on the hottest days, businesses shut down, people took longer breaks during the heat of the day. Have the gains in summer productivity really been worth the cost?

ETA: the
second half of the article appears to deal with shifts in population (and thus politics) nationwide due to availability of air conditioning. I haven't read it yet, but it also looks neat.



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