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Rethinking air conditioning amid climate change

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It was a monumental day for the environmental movement more than 30 years ago when all 198 countries around the world reached their first and only agreement.They signed on Montreal Protocol, Has signed an agreement to phase out the list of chemicals that destroy the earth’s ozone layer. The most important of these were chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons used in the cooling and freezing industry. Alternatives such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were quickly found.

However, in recent years, scientists have realized that the 1987 Montreal Protocol may have replaced the immediate problem with a long-term problem. HFCs do not damage the ozone layer like CFCs, but chemicals have the potential for warming hundreds to thousands of times higher than COs.2— Growing global use is a source of concern.

The Industrial Revolution of the 20th century has brought about a major boom in the air conditioning and freezing industry in Europe and North America. Today, as developing countries boost their economies, demand for these appliances is skyrocketing in countries such as China, India and Nigeria.

According to the company, about 3.6 billion cooling appliances are currently used for cooling buildings and refrigerating foods and medicines. 2020 report According to the United Nations Environment Program. That number is expected to jump to 9.5 billion by 2050. Moreover, if everyone in need of cooling services could get them, that figure would be an astonishing 14 billion. According to one estimate..

Magazines I know We talked to Sherry Miller, an environmental engineer at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability.Miller co-authored an article in 2021 Annual review of environment and resources Examined Growing global demand for cooling and freezing, Impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and potential solutions. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

This may sound like a strange topic to many. Why do we need to worry about the refrigeration and freezing industry?

When thinking about the environmental impacts people need to tackle, it is very rare for people to think about cooling services. But it’s a very important issue that hasn’t really been addressed. “Cooling services” is a very broad category that refers to a temperature controlled environment.And it’s buildings, transportation, and Food sector.. When you start looking at energy usage across the world, it has a huge impact. Greenhouse gas emissions..

And the industry is about to achieve exponential growth in developing countries. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the impact of the industry as a whole.

How does the refrigeration and freezing industry affect the environment?

Whether it’s a home refrigerator or an air conditioner, it takes a lot of energy to cool the environment. Our power grid relies heavily on fossil fuels, so using energy to cool down also emits greenhouse gases. Much of the environmental impact is the consumption of incredible amounts of energy, primarily based on fossil fuels.

Also, when talking about cooling space technology, it requires what is called a refrigerant. Refrigerants are chemicals used to lower temperatures, and traditional refrigerants often have a high global warming potential.

Therefore, even if a relatively small amount of refrigerant is used, the effect of the refrigerant leaking into the atmosphere will have a great impact on the climate.

In the past, we used refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons that had a devastating effect on the ozone layer. So we banned them and introduced new chemicals. Did you just replace the problem here?

One of the great successes to the environment is the ban on certain chemicals that destroy the ozone layer. As you said, the Montreal Protocol, one of the major environmental treaties, has banned the use of ozone-depleting chemicals in the refrigerant industry. As an alternative, we devised hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). And it did a great and effective job of reducing ozone depletion, but at the expense of warming.

Therefore, we traded off the ozone depletion potential and greenhouse gas emissions.In another international agreement called Kigali revision, Countries are addressing issues related to greenhouse gas emissions related to refrigerants. Therefore, we are currently aiming for an alternative refrigerant with a low global warming potential.

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