It’s Getting Hot In Here, So Turn Off All Your AC

Stan Cox in WaPo:

Washington didn’t grind to a sweaty halt last week under triple-digit temperatures. People didn’t even slow down. Instead, the three-day, 100-plus-degree, record-shattering heat wave prompted Washingtonians to crank up their favorite humidity-reducing, electricity-bill-busting, fluorocarbon-filled appliance: the air conditioner.

This isn’t smart. In a country that’s among the world’s highest greenhouse-gas emitters, air conditioning is one of the worst power-guzzlers. The energy required to air-condition American homes and retail spaces has doubled since the early 1990s. Turning buildings into refrigerators burns fossil fuels, which emits greenhouse gases, which raises global temperatures, which creates a need for — you guessed it — more air-conditioning.

A.C.’s obvious public-health benefits during severe heat waves do not justify its lavish use in everyday life for months on end. Less than half a century ago, America thrived with only the spottiest use of air conditioning. It could again. While central air will always be needed in facilities such as hospitals, archives and cooling centers for those who are vulnerable to heat, what would an otherwise A.C.-free Washington look like?

At work

In a world without air conditioning, a warmer, more flexible, more relaxed workplace helps make summer a time to slow down again. Three-digit temperatures prompt siestas. Code-orange days mean offices are closed. Shorter summer business hours and month-long closings — common in pre-air-conditioned America — return.

Business suits are out, for both sexes. And with the right to open a window, office employees no longer have to carry sweaters or space heaters to work in the summer. After a long absence, ceiling fans, window fans and desk fans (and, for that matter, paperweights) take back the American office.

Best of all, Washington’s biggest business — government — is transformed. In 1978, 50 years after air conditioning was installed in Congress, New York Times columnist Russell Baker noted that, pre-A.C., Congress was forced to adjourn to avoid Washington’s torturous summers, and “the nation enjoyed a respite from the promulgation of more laws, the depredations of lobbyists, the hatching of new schemes for Federal expansion and, of course, the cost of maintaining a government running at full blast.”

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

… but a productive workday and a good night’s sleep is way too important for me to long for the halcyon, hot days of yesteryear.

Kathy Kattenburg at Moderate Voice:

Full disclosure: I worship air conditioning. Although I didn’t grow up with it, it would be very difficult for me to live without it now. And that is one part (among many others) of why Cox’s argument, in my view, is so foolish.

First, let me be clear about what I am NOT saying, or suggesting. I am not saying, or suggesting, that global warming is not a problem. It’s a problem. In fact, it’s an existential problem — more so even than global terrorism, because worldwide climate change contributes to conditions that exacerbate terrorism. By contrast, terrorism does not contribute to conditions that exacerbate global warming.

I am also not saying, or suggesting, that Cox is wrong to indict air conditioning’s electricity-hogging, fluorocarbon-producing nature as a prime contributor to global warming. Anything that uses massive amounts of electricity and/or puts more carbon into the atmosphere has to be taken seriously as one ingredient in global climate change. However, that does not mean that the industrialized world can simply give up air conditioning, or cut back on its use to the extent that would be needed to make a significant difference.

Reality sometimes does bite, and the reality is that even though most people over the age of 50 did not grow up with air conditioning, and yet somehow survived despite that; and even though before the use of air conditioning became widespread and common in everyday life, people found ways to stay cool (or cooler) that actually and demonstrably were effective, over the past 40 years, at least, Americans have gotten used to NOT having to suffer in the heat, and you can’t just wish that away. Also, and perhaps even more pointed as a counterargument, air conditioning has fueled (literally, I suppose) an entire way of life, in every possible sense — economically and socially and in many other ways. The widespread use of air conditioning, and the growing affordability of residential air conditioning and its use in offices and other workplaces, made possible such socioeconomic phenomena as “the Sunbelt” — a term that connotes a vast region of the United States that attracts jobs, industry, tourism, and retirees. I don’t have confirming statistics at my fingertips, but I’m nevertheless reasonably confident, that air conditioning has saved lives and helped to increase longevity in general. The U.S. economy as it exists today would not be possible without air conditioning.

Now, when I say this, I do NOT intend to imply that changes in the way the U.S. economy operates are not needed — I mean, God and TMV’s readers know that! I am not saying it might not be a good idea to reduce our dependence on air conditioning, or that Cox’s substantive arguments do not have merit.

The salient, central point, for me, is that it’s simply not realistic to expect that the kind of massive shifts in demographics, in lifestyles, in economic patterns, that have occurred as the result in large part of air conditioning could just be reversed, because Stan Cox says that we’ve gotten too used to air conditioning. It took half a human lifetime for these shifts to develop — they did not do so overnight. If we as a people want to change that, it cannot be done by fiat, and it certainly cannot be done by exhortatory op-ed pieces.

Iain Murray at The Corner:

Many of the so-called solutions the green movement proposes consist of turning back the clock and relying on technology we left behind decades, even centuries ago: They want us to use windmills and railroads, use more land for crops (and thereby less for forests), and burn plants to make energy. Now, there has come along a fellow who thinks air conditioning is a bane rather than a boon and hankers for the offices of the 1940s

[…]

I suggest Congress and government agencies lead by example and adopt this rule of no air conditioning immediately. In fact, I’m sure it must be somewhere in Speaker Pelosi’s Greening the Capitol initiative. Questions should be asked on the floor as to why they’re running the AC this week.

Conn Carroll at Heritage:

Doesn’t the AC-free enviro-dream world sound wonderful? Daily summertime siestas, shorter business hours, even some days completely off! But as with all enviro-leftist schemes, the heavy costs of their low energy utopian dream are being ignored. Slower workdays means less productivity. Shorter hours and closed offices mean lost profits for employers.

This is just the latest way the left wants to control our lives under the banner of global warming. They also want to control what we eat, how we travel, and where we live. Even how we go to the bathroom.

Ann Althouse:

AND: Here are some more things I want to see from you to prove that you really believe in global warming.

1. Your weight should be at the low end of normal, indicating that you are not overconsuming the products of agriculture.

2. You should not engage in vigorous physical exercise, as this will increase your caloric requirements. You may do simple weight-lifting or calisthenics to keep in shape. Check how many calories per hour are burned and choose a form of exercise that burns as few calories as possible.

3. Free time should be spent sitting or lying still without using electricity. Don’t run the television or music playing device. Reading, done by sunlight is the best way to pass free time. After dark, why not have a pleasant conversation with friends or family? Word games or board games should replace sports or video games.

4. Get up at sunrise. Don’t waste the natural light. Try never to turn on the electric lights in your house or workplace. Put compact fluorescent bulbs in all your light fixtures. The glow is so ugly that it will reduce the temptation to turn them on.

5. Restrict your use of transportation. Do not assume that walking or biking is less productive of carbon emissions than using a highly efficient small car. Do not go anywhere you don’t have to go. When there is no food in the house to make dinner, instead of hopping in the car to go to the grocery store or a restaurant, take it as a cue to fast. As noted above, your weight should be at the low end of normal, and opportunities to reach or stay there should be greeted with a happy spirit.

6. If you have free time, such as a vacation from work, spend it in your home town. Read library books, redo old jigsaw puzzles, meditate, tell stories to your children — the list of activities is endless. Just thinking up more items to put on that list is an activity that could be on the list. Really embrace this new way of life. A deep satisfaction and mental peace can be achieved knowing that you are saving the earth.

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