The Philippines being a tropical country, it’s understandable that most people would want to avoid the constant heat. But from our cars to our malls to our cafes to our offices, it’s uncommon to see a window cracked open. Instead, the hum of an air conditioning unit is omnipresent and that’s how we beat the heat. It’s not a bad wager to guess that millions of Filipino homes have at least one air conditioning unit. While there is the possibility that these sit idle during the colder months of the year, during the summer time they are probably put into over drive to combat temperatures soaring near 40C.
However, the next time you reach for the controls, consider the possible effects your choices are having on the environment. It take a massive amount of energy to cool a closed space to a temperature like 18C, and imagine this power usage being repeated across the grid as every individual household and commercial space turns on their AC to full power. The comforts we experience now are directly affecting chances for cooler weather in the future.
Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer for Asia and the Middle East of Christian Aid Jessica Dator-Bercilla explained the effect air conditioners have on temperature by sharing the two-fold way it can exacerbate global warming. The colder you set the temperature, the more your machine emits hydroflourocarbons, or HFCs, which enhance global warming. HFCs were first introduced as a stronger alternative to coolants, allowing them to provide cooler settings at more efficient energy consumption. But it’s since been learned that their greenhouse effect is stronger than carbon dioxide by thousand fold. Also, to maintain lower temperatures, air conditioning units consume higher amounts of energy. The energy economy of the Philippines is still largely fuel-based, so the horsepower needed to run your AC comes from sources that released high amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. That means that emissions are coming from both the machine and the power source giving it power to run.
This isn’t to discourage use of air conditioning in private spaces, or to say that we need to abandon them. It’s not an entirely selfish choice a selfish choice. Summer temperatures often reach levels where it can be dangerous to stay outside for too long. It’s certainly is not worth risking one’s health in order to denounce the technology of air conditioning and the emissions that come with it. But instead of pushing for maximum settings, try keeping to 25C or higher. There’s no need to feel like you’re in the Arctic circle in your effort to avoid the discomfort of the noontime sun.
Climate Stories Philippines organized a Climate Cafe event on June 27 which discussed the difference in keeping temperatures at 18C and at 25C. A key component to minimizing the effects of global warming is combating the excessive release of HFCs. According to experts, phasing down HFCs can prevent up to 0.44C global temperature rise. The Paris Protocol of 2015 had world leaders come together to agree that global temperatures should only rise by 2C in the next few decades. Given this, 0.44C is a significant number.
The Asian energy market is also set to grow in the next few decades. Rising population numbers and developing cities demand more and more energy, which translates into more emissions. As an individual citizen, what we can do is to try to keep our own emissions low, and that means keeping the air conditioning set to high temperatures (or even to fan).