Air conditioning is not the enemy. Carbon pollution is.

Dan Upham

In his book, But Will the Planet Notice?, Environmental Defense Fund senior economist Gernot Wagner proudly noted that he lived in an apartment without air conditioning. The times and climate are a-changing, and Wagner recently and reluctantly purchased his first air conditioner. In an article on, he wrote about how an air conditioner, in and of itself, isn’t the big environmental problem: It’s when society doesn’t fully pay for the cost of its emissions.

Wagner highlighted an unfortunate chain of related truths:

  • “Air conditioners account for around 5 percent of electricity used in the U.S. The need for more air conditioning is one of the costliest effects of global warming.
  • “[Using air conditioners], in turn, leads to more warming, which leads to a greater need for air conditioning — just one example of the changing climate’s many feedback loops. “
  • “As a result, the costs of global warming are rising year after year.”

Energy efficiency improvements are a way to mitigate the negative climate impacts of air conditioners, but we also need to change the ways we produce energy and how carbon pollution is regulated at city, state and federal levels.

It doesn’t have to be oppressive. As California’s cap-and-trade program illustrates, “Californians are now incorporating (part of) the costs of air pollution due to air conditioning into their daily decisions, without anyone telling them if or when to turn on their air conditioners or which one to buy in the first place.”

See the full article on for more.

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