Heat waves are getting longer and more brutal. Here’s why your AC can’t save you anymore

by | Jul 4, 2024 | Science

When Hurricane Ida battered Louisiana with catastrophic flooding and powerful winds in August 2021, more than 1 million people lost power. Then came the heat wave. Temperatures rose above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — a sucker punch to those sweltering in their homes, unable to turn on air conditioning as power outages stretched on for days.It was the heat that proved deadliest in New Orleans, responsible for at least nine of the city’s 14 hurricane-related deaths.The combination of a hurricane, heat wave and a multi-day power outage is a nightmare scenario, but it’s one set to become more common as humans continue to warm the planet, fueling devastating extreme weather. And it reveals an uncomfortable truth about the vulnerability of humanity’s ultimate protection against heat: Air conditioning.Air conditioning is far from perfect. It gobbles up energy, most of which still comes from planet-heating fossil fuels, meaning it exacerbates the very problem it’s used to mitigate. Plus, it’s only available to those who can afford it, further widening social inequality.But it is also a lifeline against increasingly brutal heat, the deadliest type of extreme weather. It allows people to live in places where temperatures push close to the limits of survivability and where extreme heat persists even at night.Demand for AC is exploding, expected to triple worldwide by 2050, as global temperatures soar and incomes grow.The problem is, without electricity, access to air conditioning is lost. And many electrical grids are being pushed to a breaking point due to increasingly frequent extreme weather and soaring demand for cooling.Weather accounted for 80% of major p …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnWhen Hurricane Ida battered Louisiana with catastrophic flooding and powerful winds in August 2021, more than 1 million people lost power. Then came the heat wave. Temperatures rose above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — a sucker punch to those sweltering in their homes, unable to turn on air conditioning as power outages stretched on for days.It was the heat that proved deadliest in New Orleans, responsible for at least nine of the city’s 14 hurricane-related deaths.The combination of a hurricane, heat wave and a multi-day power outage is a nightmare scenario, but it’s one set to become more common as humans continue to warm the planet, fueling devastating extreme weather. And it reveals an uncomfortable truth about the vulnerability of humanity’s ultimate protection against heat: Air conditioning.Air conditioning is far from perfect. It gobbles up energy, most of which still comes from planet-heating fossil fuels, meaning it exacerbates the very problem it’s used to mitigate. Plus, it’s only available to those who can afford it, further widening social inequality.But it is also a lifeline against increasingly brutal heat, the deadliest type of extreme weather. It allows people to live in places where temperatures push close to the limits of survivability and where extreme heat persists even at night.Demand for AC is exploding, expected to triple worldwide by 2050, as global temperatures soar and incomes grow.The problem is, without electricity, access to air conditioning is lost. And many electrical grids are being pushed to a breaking point due to increasingly frequent extreme weather and soaring demand for cooling.Weather accounted for 80% of major p …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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