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A report from the University of Birmingham suggests there will be so many cooling devices in the world by 2050 that it will take all the world's available renewable energy to power them all.

Clean Power

Cooling People In A Hotter World Could Consume All Of World’s Renewable Energy By 2050

A report from the University of Birmingham suggests there will be so many cooling devices in the world by 2050 that it will take all the world’s available renewable energy to power them all.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have released a new study entitled “A Cool World — Defining the Energy Conundrum of ‘Cooling for All’” that contains some startling findings. They say as the planet gets hotter, humans  will need 5 times as many cooling devices by 2050 as there are today. What’s more, the authors of the study claim the 3.6 billion cooling devices in use worldwide today require 3,600 TWh of electricity, but if that number increases by a factor of 5 as the predict, the world will need 19,600 TWh of electricity just to run all that cooling machinery.

air conditioning and coolingThat’s a problem, because according to Professor Toby Peters, who helped write the report, if we are to hold global temperature increases to no more than 2º C, the total energy consumption for cooling must be limited to 6,300 TWh — less than one third what will be needed to operate all those cooling devices. Even if new, more efficient cooling technologies become available, the annual energy requirement will be 15,500 TWh — more than twice the available electrical energy budget. To put it all in perspective, the study suggests the energy needed to keep everybody cool as the world gets hotter could consume 100% of all the renewable energy expected to be available by 2050.

“The challenge now is how to start with a system-led approach, better harnessing a portfolio of energy resources and adopting novel technologies. In order to achieve this, we need to start by asking ourselves a new question — no longer ‘how much electricity do we need to generate?’ but rather ‘what is the service we require, and how can we provide it in the least damaging way,” Peters says.

Reducing demand won’t be enough, the report warns. It calls for a whole new system approach to cooling, one that recognizes available free or waste cold and heat resources and incorporates new technologies, data connectivity, and thermal energy storage to meet demand in the most efficient way. A network of Living Labs would provide a place to test new technologies as well as socio-economic, policy, and funding models to ensure that new thinking on  cooling systems can be properly designed and tested.

How odd that global warming will lead to a demand for more cooling which in turn will ratchet up further global warming. The best case scenario is that we will all be comfortable and cool in our homes, which is a good thing, since there won’t be any excess energy available for us to go anywhere. How cool is that?

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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