The rates at which countries of the world demand for air-conditioners to keep their homes cool and livable, and refrigeration to keep things from getting spoilt makes the case for rising temperatures from global warming a joke; and to drive home the point, the issue is now undermining the pledges individual nations are making toward arresting climate change and the resultant heat - The Guardian reports.
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Analytics indicate that the rate at which people globally would demand for air-conditioners would increase 33 times by 2100, while the United States is already using as much electricity as the whole of Africa uses to cool homes alone. India and China are also coming up the ladder; and it is estimated that by mid-century, the whole world will demand for more energy to cool things than to heat them up.
“Most people tend to think of energy in terms of heat and light and transport,” said Toby Peters, visiting professor of power and the cold economy at the University of Birmingham. “But more and more, it’s going to be about cold. Demand for cold is already huge, it’s growing fast, and we’re meeting it in basically the same way we’ve been doing for a century. Cold is the Cinderella of the energy debate. If we don’t change the way we do it, the consequences are going to be dramatic.”
The reliance on cold air or air-conditioners to make the world livable is almost phenomenal. Homes and offices now need air-conditioners, we need refrigerators to make our food chilled or frozen, and without freezers vaccines and medicines would go to waste, while the chemical, steel and plastic industries rely on cooling to perfect their products, not forgetting the fact that data centers and the internet will crash within minutes if there were no powerful air-conditioners to keep them cold.
“Heat we know, and we talk about it no end,” said Nick Winser, a former head of Britain’s National Grid who chairs the Energy Systems Catapult, a new UK technology and innovation centre in the energy field. “Cold has become a hugely significant – yet almost unsung – part of our energy footprint. We know the energy landscape is going to be very different in the near future. We need to see cold’s place in it; start thinking of heat and cold as parts of one integrated system.”
Several countries of the world now use a large percentage of their electricity power for cooling purposes. Mumbai in India uses 40% of its power for cooling, and Saudi Arabia burns 1 billion barrels of oil every year to generate power most of which is used for air conditioning; while 20% of the electricity use in Britain is dedicated to refrigeration and air-conditioning purposes.
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“In the west,” said Richard Williams of Heriot-Watt University, “we’ve traditionally been more concerned with efficiently capturing and reusing heat. The source for cold has mostly been conventional electricity, or diesel. We’ve just been very slow to realise how important cold has become to our lifestyles.”