Hotter Climate, More Cooling Demand
Higher temperatures from carbon pollution are causing more Americans to retreat indoors and turn on their air conditioners. Cooling degree days (CDD) is the terminology used to describe how much cooling is needed to maintain a certain level of indoor comfort. Specifically, it is the number of degrees a day's average temperature was above 65°F.
Climate Central analyzed 242 cities in the U.S. and determined that 96% experienced an increase in CDDs since the 1970s. While traditionally hot cities in the South and Southwest saw the greatest increases in CDDs, no part of the country is being spared. Cities in northern latitudes such as Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., also had significant rises in CDDs, meaning the demand for air conditioning is growing across the country.
Air conditioning can provide needed relief and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses, but it comes at a cost. When our air conditioning is powered by electricity generated through fossil fuels, heat-trapping CO2 is released. Air conditioners emit heat back outside and can add to the heat island effect in urban areas. And if old air conditioners are not disposed of properly, they can leak chemicals that are themselves harmful heat-trapping gases.
Air conditioning consumption is expected to increase by 59% in U.S. homes by 2050, outpacing the 17% growth projected for commercial spaces.