A chilling truth: our addiction to air conditioning must end

(The Guardian, 1 Sep 2019) Readers respond to Stephen Buranyi’s long read on how air cooling systems burn electricity and fuel global heating.

Kudos to Stephen Buranyi for drawing attention to the growth of air conditioning worldwide and the accompanying taste for cold in a time of global warming (Blowing cold and hot, The long read, 29 August). Having lived and worked in the American south, I can attest there are even more pernicious dimensions to this addiction to cold. Restaurants and bars are kept uncomfortably chilly, thus encouraging higher levels of consumption (heat dampens the desire to eat), fuelling not only profits but the obesity crisis.

Cold has become a mark of prestige: the fancier the establishment, be it office block or shopping mall, the colder it is likely to be. Anecdotally, moving between these absurd temperature extremes several times a day seems to increase the incidence of colds. When I requested that the AC in my workplace (a public university) be set to a warmer level, the response of the facilities staff was to provide a heater for my office. Here in New York, a hotel on my street keeps a roaring fire in the lobby – in August – while the ambient indoor temperature is freezing. All this amounts to what Richard Seymour has recently called “climate sadism” – a form of masochism outwardly and ostentatiously directed, consumptive and destructive madness. May we find ways not to get caught up in its drive.
Emanuela Bianchi
New York

When I was a legal adviser to the Export Credits Guarantee Department back in the 1970s I was told by an architect that he had been retained by the ruler of one of the Gulf states to build a tower office block along the lines of those now disfiguring the City of London. He asked his client where he would like the power station as the block would consume inordinate amounts of electricity for air conditioning.

The architect pointed out to his client that it would be more sensible to keep to traditional styles of building, like the medieval souks, which are kept relatively cool by judicious circulation of air.

It seems that the architect’s advice was not heeded. We now have extraordinary developments such as Dubai, which must be consuming energy at a prodigious rate.
Dr Anthony J Cooper
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire

External link

The Guardian, 1 Sep 2019: A chilling truth: our addiction to air conditioning must end