The Earth is the Lord’s — not ours to wreck
Rising temperatures are creating a growing demand for air conditioning. Over 86% of U.S. homes have cooling systems, and all the houses we looked at in Portland six years ago had AC. That’s not true for Seattle, and adding ceiling fans and AC were priorities for us when we purchased a house here.
We’re using extra electricity and natural gas so we can be comfortable. That generates more carbon dioxide and acerbates the climate crisis. But we’ve not alone. Only 8% of India’s households have AC, but installing cooling systems is frequently a life or death matter as India’s temperatures soar. Approximately 20% of the total electricity used in buildings worldwide is for air conditioners and fans. Space cooling energy needs are expected to triple by 2050.
The organic compound hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) is the primary refrigerant used in AC equipment and refrigeration units. HFCs are better than the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) still being used in India and older equipment here. CFCs are linked to the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic which isn’t expected to return to 1980 coverage until 2050.
HFC emissions which occur during the production, installation, and especially at the equipment’s end of life are 1,000-3,000 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. HFCs currently represent 1% of total greenhouse gases, but they’re the fastest-growing (10-15% per year) form of climate emissions and could potentially cause half a degree Celsius of warming by 2100.
Two large chemical manufacturers (Honeywell and DuPont spinoff Chemours) now produce more environmentally-friendly HFC alternatives. Sacred Earth Matters supported a bill this year which the Washington legislature adopted that restricts the use of HFCs and directs the state to establish a purchasing and procurement policy for alternative products.
The 2016 Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer commits parties (including U.S.) to reduce the production/consumption of hydrofluorocarbons by 80% over three decades. The amendment went into effect January 1, 2019, but it hasn’t been ratified by the U.S., China, or India. Several Republican senators and the US Chamber of Commerce have urged President Trump to back ratification, but…