Air Conditioning for Me, but Not for Thee

by Greg Pollowitz

Elisabeth Rosenthal had a (really) long piece in the New York Times over the weekend on the evils of air conditioning. You can read the entire piece, but the ending sums it up nicely:

Unfortunately many tropical places — including Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong — seem to have followed the United States’ lead in cooling preferences, Mr. Tanabe said, holding cooler to be better.

But certainly if I deserve to have an air-conditioner here in New York, my counterpart in Mumbai deserves to have one, too. So individuals need to be coaxed to make new choices.

“We need to educate people there are other ways to be comfortable than just turning up the A.C., you have to use it wisely,” said Mr. Wargocki, speaking from his condo in Singapore with the windows open late one evening to create natural drafts for cooling.

He began telling me about how the European Union was effectively forcing companies to use less cooling, by mandating that new buildings meet stricter energy-use standards. Since air-conditioning gobbles up far more electricity than heating in many office buildings, one way for architects to achieve compliance is to avoid an over-reliance on air-conditioning — for example, building with materials that do not absorb heat or pumping in cool air from deep underground.

I was listening from my living room in New York on a steamy Sunday morning. Given the topic of our conversation, I had the air-conditioner off, and the temperature was 85 or so. I couldn’t concentrate.

She couldn’t concentrate because it was 85 degrees? How weak is that? But I like how she admits that she turned off her AC during the phone interview with Wargocki only because of the “topic of conversation.” Presumably when the time came to write up her notes for the big anti-air-conditioning piece, she turned it back on again.

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