Emissions Of SO2, NOx, & CO2 Increase Considerably With Each Degree (Celsius) Of Temperature Rise During Summer, Thanks To Air Conditioner Use

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Owing to the widespread use of air conditioners, emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and carbon dioxide (CO2) increase substantially during the summer in the US (and surely elsewhere) — air conditioners use a lot of electricity. As global temperatures increase, that means many more people are turning on (and buying) air conditioners, which then increases the electricity production that is a leading cause of global warming.

Image: US Navy photo by Thomas Obungen

A new analysis, published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology, has quantified this increase in much of the US, with the finding being that, on average, summertime emissions increases of the pollutants mentioned above “go up by hundreds to thousands of metric tons per degree Celsius increase.”

Those findings are based on an analysis of patterns in 27 different US states, mostly located in the Eastern US.

The press release provides more: “Using data collected between 2003 and 2014, the researchers crunched the numbers on electricity emissions in 27 states. … From this analysis, they observed that power plants released 3.35% more SO2 on average per degree Celsius increase in temperature, and NOx and CO2 rose by 3.60% and 3.32%, respectively.

“States with more coal power plants such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana released the most electricity-related SO2 emissions in the summer at more than 1,300 metric tons per day, per state. However, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont power plants released very little SO2. States like Texas with a large power demand showed high emissions of all pollutants, but smaller changes in emissions per degree Celsius. Overall, the calculations showed that hotter outdoor temperatures correlated with 140,000 metric tons more CO2 emissions.”

So, the general takeaway here is that as temperatures continue rising in the US (and elsewhere) emissions levels will be increasing at a rapid clip … so long as most people and businesses can afford air conditioner use, that is.

The researchers noted in their report on the matter that making buildings more energy efficient could go a long ways towards reducing electricity demand, and thus emissions.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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