Global climate change

Air pollution from increased use of air conditioning may worsen in a warming world

By Brett Anderson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
7/06/2018, 1:22:01 PM

The increased use of air conditioning in a warming world may lead to a significant degradation of air quality in the eastern U.S. by mid-century.

The higher demand for cooling of buildings will lead to an increased use of fossil fuels, which will reduce air quality in just a few decades into the future, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin.

Air conditioning does and will save lives, says Jonathan Patz, senior author of the study and professor of environmental studies and population health sciences. However, Patz states that if the increased use of air conditioning due to climate change depends on fossil fuel energy, there will be an air quality and human health tradeoff.

The study predicts an additional 13,000 human deaths annually caused by higher summer levels of fine particulate matter and 3,000 annual deaths caused by ozone in the eastern U.S. by mid-century.

“Heat waves are increasing and increasing in intensity. We will have more cooling demand requiring more electricity. But if our nation continues to rely on coal-fired power plants for some of our electricity, each time we turn on the air conditioning we’ll be fouling the air, causing more sickness and even deaths," said Patz.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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Global climate change