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Environmental impact of using air conditioning to stay cool on these hot days

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Once the temperatures start to rise in the summer, it’s second nature for many people to turn the air conditioner to full-blast. The struggle of blowing out your hair while swimming in a pool of your own sweat can certainly feel like reason enough to crank up that fan speed to “arctic”. But since the environmental impact of using an AC to stay cool is way worse than once thought, it might be time to rethink your heat-fighting order of operations.

new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed five predictions of extra energy use in the summertime as a result of warmer annual summer temps  to forecast effects on power consumption, air quality, and public health.

The results showed that 1,000 people who live in the Eastern part of the United States alone are expected to die every year as a result of complications from increased levels of pollution in the air—something tied to frequent air conditioner use. Because electricity is required to power air conditioners, more fossil fuels are burned to create that energy, and the process releases harmful particles into the air. The study predicted that if current air-conditioning habits continue in conjunction with rising temperatures, by midcentury, the mortality rate could reach 13,000 people annually just in the Eastern US.

“We’re trading problems,” senior study author Jonathan Patz, MD, says in a press release. “Heat waves are increasing and increasing in intensity. We will have more cooling demand requiring more electricity. But if our nation continues to rely on coal-fired power plants for some of our electricity, each time we turn on the air conditioning we’ll be fouling the air, causing more sickness and even deaths.”

Until clean energy is more widely available, saving the environment might be as simple as relying on some off-grid methods of staying comfortable in the heat and making the world a greener in the process.

Other ways of keeping cool:

  1. Take a cold shower
  2. Use a peppermint body wash
  3. Grab a bag of frozen veggies
  4. Try cooling beauty products
  5. Spritz yourself with water
  6. Cuddle up with a chilled bottle of Pellegrino

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