Science

Climate change: air conditioners everywhere tomorrow?

With climate change, the world will soon need a phenomenal number of air conditioners. In certain regions of Brazil, Mexico, India or Indonesia, uses could multiply by 16 by 2040, according to a study coordinated by Enrica De Cian, professor of environmental economics at Ca ‘Foscari University in Venice.

According to simulations carried out by the scientist, the rate of equipping households with devices to cool the ambient air could go from 29 to 85% in Brazil, from 13 to 69% in India, from 9 to 61% in Indonesia, and 29 53% in Mexico. Of course, these countries will not be the only ones to see an increase in sales. According to another MIT study, published last summer, the North China Plain, and its 400 million inhabitants, must also prepare for deadly heat waves in the coming decades. And in Dubai, thermal conditions are gradually becoming incompatible with human life.

But the countries studied by the Italian researcher are still among the most exposed areas. Both because of the rise in mercury during the summer and because of the humidity that, by saturating the air, prevents the sweat from evaporating and the body temperature from falling. In her study, the scientist measures the discomfort of the populations thanks to an index of the need for cooling, which takes into account the change in temperature and humidity compared to a situation considered comfortable (24 degrees). Then two warming scenarios are applied: one moderate and the other sustained, to which are added various assumptions of income growth, on which purchases of capital goods also depend. Results? In India, the unrest index will double by at least 2040. In Brazil, it would multiply by five in the most favorable case and by nine in the worst case.

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A new form of inequality

The rise in air conditioning will be accompanied by an increase in electricity consumption, the study says: Needs would triple in both India and Indonesia and almost double in Mexico and Brazil. This is obviously bad news, as power production still generates a lot of CO2 emissions, and will continue to do so if we believe in the many plans for new coal-fired power plants.

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For scientists, the generalization of air conditioning is also nonsense from an ecological point of view, since by rejecting hot air in the street, it contributes locally to the increase in temperature, accentuating the need to install other air conditioners! But another perverse effect is already worrying experts. Even if air conditioners multiply, this will not be enough to protect all populations, warns Enrica De Cian. Purchases are highly dependent on income level. In fact, it is the middle classes and the wealthiest who should register a sharp increase in their rate of equipment. A significant fraction of the population will not have the means to cool down in good conditions. Between 64 and 100 million people would be affected in the four countries studied. “These people will suffer a higher average temperature,” warns the study. A new form of inequality is emerging.

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Christophe Donner, writer.Christophe donner

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Economist and essayist, Nicolas Bouzou is the founder and director of the consulting firm Asterès.Nicolas bouzou

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Abnousse shalmani

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Donner Chronicle.Christophe donner

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