Is Air Conditioning Necessary?

Air Conditioning

Air Conditioning

We have had a few warm days in London in the last couple of weeks. And it makes going into my air conditioned laboratory a real pleasure – cool air with just the right humidity to make it feel comfortable. Ahhhh. It feels great. And I would really like to ignore how much it costs to create. However NPL as a whole is intimately aware of how much it costs – they (and that means you!) have to pay the electricity bill! So I do feel a little guilty as I enjoy the coolth.

And with the sheer pleasure of working in an air conditioned office in mind, I would like to draw your attention to an article in the LA Times suggesting that the US might want to ‘turn down’ its air conditioning for a variety of reasons. Two particular arguments struck me forcefully. The first was the carbon emissions: in the US it is equivalent to every household buying an additional vehicle and driving it for 7000 miles per year. More interestingly the article comments on how air conditioning has eliminated a raft of much lower technology approaches to the problem of keeping cool in warm weather. These involve drinking cold drinks, doing less, the creation of shady spaces – and then the simple fact of sitting in the shade! The article also links the avoidance of the outdoors in warm weather to American obesity and exercise issues. And perhaps more radically it hints that human habitation of the southern states of the US such as Arizona is so critically dependent on air conditioning that – in a hot and unforgiving future – humans may need to retreat from such hot frontiers. It’s just a hint, but it is a curious insight into what we may yet have in store in the UK.

Enjoy the warm weather 🙂

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