Warmer Planet: India Adopts Air-Conditioning

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/07/2018 04:24:00 PM

Like many others, I am of two minds about this phenomenon. As with practically everywhere else on Earth, India is warming. Most of the country was already warm to begin with, but with climate change, it's only getting warmer. What's more, economic development in that country has made it more possible for more folks to afford relatively costly air-conditioning units and the electricity bills associated with them.

A downside to all this comfort, however, is obviously further demand for power:
With India's AC market expected to explode from 30 million to a billion units by 2050, the world's second-most populous country could become the planet's top user of electricity for cooling. India is already the number-three spewer of greenhouse gases, burning through 800 million tonnes of coal every year -- and the predicted AC boom could mean the country would have to triple its electricity production to meet demand, experts say.

But for the hundreds of millions of Indians enduring scorching, even deadly, summers, the air conditioners are a godsend. "Summers make our life miserable," said Kumar, a 48-year-old laundryman earning $225 a month who this year installed an AC unit in his two-room house in the town of Behror in the baking-hot desert state of Rajasthan.
The paradox we must confront with A/C, as with many other modern conveniences, is that we make the Earth less convenient overall by using these electricity-dependent appliances. The user may feel cooler, but the environment becomes warmer overall:
The irony is that as humans try to stay cool, the refrigerants inside AC units and the generation of electricity needed to power the appliances are exacerbating global warming. That is, unless India can switch out of highly polluting fossil fuels for power generation:

In addition, studies -- including by the World Health Organisation and UN-Habitat -- show that the heat-generating motors inside AC units can themselves push up temperatures in urban areas, where the appliances are widely used, by a degree or more.

As demand grows, the amount of energy consumed globally by AC units could triple by 2050, requiring new electricity capacity equivalent to the combined current capacity of the US, the EU and Japan, the International Energy Agency says.

India currently generates about two-thirds of its electricity with coal and gas, and despite ambitious plans for renewable energy the country is set to remain highly dependent on hydrocarbons for decades to come.
If there is anyplace on Earth where renewable energy is most needed, it will be India as its demand for air-conditioning soars together with ambient temperatures, electricity demand and the production of carbon dioxide.