Cook’s Air Conditioning Lake City Florida – A digital sign reads 115 degrees Fahrenheit in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 17, 2021, in the southwestern United States. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Heat is entropy. Heat is chaos. The hotter something is, the more kinetic energy it has: molecules vibrate, relationships change, life overheats, things die.
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You can see it right now at the event. Last week, a heat dome formed over the Great Plains all the way to the California coast. Salt Lake City was boiling at 107°F, the hottest temperature ever recorded there. It was over 100 degrees overnight in Las Vegas. In Phoenix, temperatures reached at least 115°F five days in a row, setting a new record for the city. The health effects of heat waves are difficult to track in real time, but public health officials in the Phoenix area are investigating nine heat-related deaths in a single day (June 17). More heat is predicted for this week, this summer, as the world continues to burn fossil fuels for many years to come. As violent as it may seem, it’s just a warm-up training compared to what we’ll be facing in the not-so-distant future.
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Heat creates catastrophic climate chaos. It absorbs moisture from the soil; dry land results in less evaporation, which results in less clouds and more sun, which equals more heat and evaporation. Lake Mead, a reservoir on the border of Arizona and Nevada, which supplies drinking water to 25 million people and generates electricity for another eight million, is at its lowest level since the 1930s. With heat and drought comes fire. On the first day of summer, fires broke out in California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Montana. Heat alters the movement of disease-carrying insects. It melts the last snow cover. And for humans, heat makes the heart beat faster, sending blood to the skin, where it can be cooled by sweating. If you heat up too quickly, the heart can’t keep up, the body’s proteins expand, the gut heats up the blood quickly, and if you don’t cool down quickly, you die.
But long before that, the most obvious effect of extreme heat is that it forces people to turn on – and turn on – the air conditioner. With the fresh air, you can feel the inner chaos subside. But this comes at a price: alternating current absorbs large amounts of electricity, which puts a strain on the grid and increases the risk of blackouts. More electricity also means burning fossil fuels, which means more CO2 pollution (President Biden has promised a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035, but that’s a long way off). Additionally, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), man-made chemicals used to cool the air, are greenhouse gases that are 3,000 times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. It boils down to this: by cooling ourselves, we risk preparing ourselves for death.
In fact, that is exactly what is happening right now. The heat wave melting pavement in the West is definitely linked to the climate crisis. While the Earth as a whole has already warmed by just over 1°C, the land we all live on has warmed by almost 2°C. According to Michael Vener, chief scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, today’s heat waves are 3° to 5°F hotter than they would be without additional warming, mainly due to CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels. And the more CO2 we put into the atmosphere, the warmer it will be.
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And it is clear that as the planet warms, the demand for air conditioning will increase rapidly, especially in developing countries where air conditioning is still a luxury few can afford. Today, there are more than 1 billion single room air conditioners in the world, one in seven people on Earth. By 2050, there are likely to be more than 4.5 billion, and they will be as common as cell phones today.
The implications of this are great. A small unit that cools a room can use more electricity than four refrigerators. The US uses as much electricity annually for air conditioning as the UK as a whole. The International Energy Agency predicts that when the rest of the world catches up, air conditioning will use about 13 percent of the world’s total electricity and produce 2 billion tons of CO2 a year, about as much as India, the world’s third largest. pollutant, it flows today.
HFCs in AC units only exacerbate the problem. HFC emissions currently account for about 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and up to 3 percent in many developed countries. According to the IEA, if left unchecked, these emissions would rise to 7-19 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and offset most, if not all, of the mitigation actions countries have pledged to date.
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As the use of alternating current increases, so does the risk of power outages. During hot periods, the demand for electricity increases, putting the stability of the entire grid at risk. And when the power goes out on a hot day, people die. “[In 2018] in Beijing, during the heat wave, 50 percent of electricity went to air conditioning,” IEA analyst John Dulac told the Guardian. “Those are the ‘oh shit’ moments.
Even without a shutdown, warmer temperatures mean higher energy bills as AC units struggle to keep up with the heat. “If you want to cool your house to 75°F and the outside temperature rises from 95°F to 98°F, that *small* change means you need 1.3 times more cooling energy.” – Andrew Dessler, Texas climatologist. A&M, tweeted recently. That’s 30 percent more power, which means a 30 percent higher energy bill, just to raise the temperature by 3 degrees.
What is the solution to this heat-induced chaos? The most obvious: stop burning fossil fuels. In any case, once carbon emissions reach zero, warming will stop and atmospheric temperatures will level off (until CO2 levels drop, which, barring the massive adoption of some new technology, will take hundreds of years for CO2 to disappear from the atmosphere). But of course, since we won’t be living in a carbon-free world anytime soon, increasing the efficiency of AC units can help, as can the development and commercialization of new technologies to cool air without destroying the planet (in the US, new efficiency). Standards for AC units will come into effect in 2023). In some locations, heat pumps that simultaneously heat and cool buildings may be a reasonable option. And earlier this year, the winners of the $1 million global cooling prize were announced, showcasing a new technology that promises to have five times less impact on the climate than traditional AC units.
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He published an article about a simple technology that can go a long way to solving the problems of extreme heat: the electric fan.
As we all know, fans have been used for centuries to move air and help keep it cool (hand fans in China date back to the 8th century). But in recent years, electric fans have fallen into disrepute. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that “portable electric fans are not the simple cooling solution they seem.” From the World Health Organization: “During extreme heat, fans can increase the level of heat stress, especially when the ambient humidity is high.” Also from the WHO: “There is no scientific consensus on the effectiveness of fans.”
The fear is that fans will create something like a convection oven for people. When hot air blows over the body, heat stress can increase. The conclusion of most current health recommendations is that fans do more harm than good when temperatures exceed 95°F.
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A new study says these recommendations are not based on sound science. In fact, Morris and his co-authors say that in most cases and for most people, fans are an inexpensive, lightweight, low-power solution to extreme heat.
In the study, the researchers used biophysical models to generate combinations of temperature and humidity to see when fan use would worsen heat stress: healthy young adults (aged 18 to 40), healthy adults (aged 65 and older), and older adults taking anticholinergic medications, Parkinson’s a class of drugs used to treat disease and other conditions. These age groups were chosen because the ability to sweat is reduced by 25 percent in the elderly and another 25 percent in people taking anticholinergic drugs. Heat stress thresholds for these three groups were then compared with hourly hot weather data from 108 cities around the world from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2019.
Research has shown that the efficiency of fans depends on two temperatures
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