California Air Conditioning

Here’s a departure from our usual blogs, a report that looks back almost three years at climate changing challenges to our lifestyle, and how we’ve dealt with those challenges.  I’ll add comments afterwards.

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California’s air conditioner-driven blackouts are only the start

 

James Temple

MIT Technology Review

1 September 2020

 

Rolling blackouts: As record-breaking heat waves baked Californians last month, the collective strain of millions of air conditioners forced the state’s grid operators to plunge hundreds of thousands of households into darkness.

Why it matters: It’s a small hint of what’s likely to come in California and far beyond. Growing populations, rising incomes, increasing urbanization, and climbing summer temperatures could triple the number of AC units installed worldwide by 2050, pushing the total toward 6 billion.

Air conditioning represents one of the most insidious challenges of climate change, and one of the most difficult technological problems to fix. The more the world warms, the more we’ll need cooling. But air conditioners themselves produce enough heat to measurably boost urban temperatures, and they leak out highly potent greenhouse gases too. Plus, energy-hungry new units will push up electricity demand.

What’s needed: The basic technology operates much as it did when it was introduced nearly a century ago. But a number of startups and research groups are trying to create cleaner and more efficient cooling technology. However, the most crucial fix needs to occur outside the AC industry: transitioning the electricity grid to greater use of clean energy sources, like solar and wind. Read the full story.

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The title of the report, three years ago, was that the air conditioning problem was “only the start.”  It’s a great example of our refusal to change our lifestyle, to cease using fossil fuels, and to do whatever we can to eliminate the global warming caused by our current way of life.  Three years ago, the concern was power for air conditioners.  Today, massive forest fires are erupting in the heat.

In only three years we’ve gone from air conditioner “inconvenience” to a question of our ability to sustain life in the region!

We all seek comfort … in the temperatures in which we live, in the foods we eat, in our clothing, in our leisure activities.  And if someone or something comes along to deprive us of things that maintain our comfort, we’ll naturally resist.  Change is difficult … especially major changes in our lifestyle.

In the early 19th century, automation was changing the entire textile industry.  Ned Ludd fought that change, which threatened his employment and lifestyle – from being a craftsman to being a human cog in a machine.  That began the Luddite movement.  It was powered by coal.  That transition gave us less expensive goods that our ancestors rarely enjoyed.  It also gave us soot-filled cities!

Then along came oil.  The cost of power was even less.  And while coal powered trains, which expanded our transportation range, oil gave us cars – personal transportation that enables us to travel whenever we wish, wherever we wish – and planes, so we could now travel globally.  Today, we take all this technology for granted.

It’s comfortable.

Now, our least expensive form of power is photovoltaic panels.  And they don’t produce soot or smog.  But even though our use of fossil fuels is warming our planet and making increasing regions uninhabitable, as long as we have air conditioners, gas cars, and food at the grocery store, we’re loathe to change from our comfortable lifestyle.

Political leaders have had the benefit of our best scientists and yet have demonstrated their inability to solve this problem with anything more than rhetoric.

Increasing numbers of people are switching to electric cars, which are far less expensive to operate and maintain.

But is it enough to stop global warming?

Increasing numbers are disconnecting their homes from coal, oil, or natural gas, and switching to photovoltaic power, which is far less costly to use and to maintain.

But is it enough to stop global warming?

Our Garden Atrium homes are free of fossil fuels, have far less operating costs – our only bill is Verizon – and less maintenance costs.  But for every home that’s made this change, there’s likely a thousand new homes that haven’t.  And for every new e-car, there are still more gas cars.

Nature is helping.  Globally, sperm counts are dropping.  And increasing numbers of women are choosing to have fewer children – or none at all.  Global population is dropping.  Even with immigration, the U.S. population is declining … which could lead to an increasing number of lightly populated regions, which could give nature time to heal … in centuries … if our species lasts that long.

Things are that dire … now.

The question:

What will it take for each of us to wake up and see that

our current comfortable lifestyle is destined to wipe us out?

 

What’s even more puzzling is:  we have technology that’s less expensive to use and maintain.  Why do we search for reasons why we can’t make the change?

Recalling one of the placards from recent climate protests …

 

“The greatest threat to our planet is the

belief that someone else will save it.”

 

So … what can you do, now, personally, to stop using fossil fuels?

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