The Cruel Irony Of Air Conditioning

Thanks to the University of Minnesota for sponsoring this video!
The technology we use to keep cool is heating the world in a vicious feedback cycle, so we need to improve it and use it less.

Thanks also to our Patreon patrons and our YouTube members.

To learn more, start your googling with this keyword:
Refrigerant – a substance used in air conditioners & refrigerators for its ability to change phases and transfer heat
If you liked this week’s video, you might also like:
How AC changed the world:
People use AC to make their homes feel like Africa:

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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer & Video Narrator: Alex Reich
Video Illustrator: Arcadi Garcia Rius
Video Director: Julián Gustavo Gómez
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Kate Yoshida, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich, David Goldenberg, Sarah Berman
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:


European Commission. Climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs. Accessed May 2019.

Gunawardena, K. R., et al. 2017. Utilising green and bluespace to mitigate urban heat island intensity. Science of the Total Environment, 584, 1040-1055.

Graves, R. Pers. comm. May 2019.

International Energy Agency. 2017. Space cooling: More access, more comfort, less energy.

International Energy Agency. 2018. The Future of Cooling: Opportunities for energy- efficient air conditioning.

International Institute of Refrigeration. Nov 2017. The impact of the refrigeration sector on climate change.

Keeler, B. L., et al. 2019. Social-ecological and technological factors moderate the value of urban nature. Nature Sustainability, 2(1), 29.

Ministry of the Environment, Japan. 2016. Recovery, Recycling & Destruction of CFC, HCFC, & HFC.

Pakbaznia, E., & Pedram, M. 2009. Minimizing data center cooling and server power costs. In Proceedings of the 2009 ACM/IEEE international symposium on Low power electronics and design (pp. 145-150).

Reardon, C. & Clarke, R. 2013. Passive cooling. Australian Government: Your Home.

Sachar, S., et al. 2018. Solving the Global Cooling Challenge: How to Counter the Climate Threat from Room Air Conditioners. Rocky Mountain Institute.

Sadineni, S. B., et al. 2011. Passive building energy savings: A review of building envelope components. Renewable and sustainable energy reviews, 15(8), 3617-3631.

Sivak, M. 2013. Air conditioning versus heating: climate control is more energy demanding in Minneapolis than in Miami. ERL, 8(1), 014050.

Zhang, X., & Caldeira, K. 2015. Time scales and ratios of climate forcing due to thermal versus carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. GRL, 42(11), 4548-4555.

Zhao, L., et al. 2015. Reduction of potential greenhouse gas emissions of room air-conditioner refrigerants: a life cycle carbon footprint analysis. Journal of Cleaner Production, 100, 262-268.


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22 thoughts on “The Cruel Irony Of Air Conditioning

  1. Thanks for watching! Viewer support makes MinuteEarth possible. Will you become our patron on Patreon or member on YouTube? Visit or click "join" here on Youtube

  2. What if it's winter? You don't use air conditioner you just use heaters you mostly use air conditioner for like summer or spring I think the cold Last longer then spring and summer

  3. Bull Shit. Thermodynamics says we cant make or destroy energy. If we used the energy of AC somewhere else, heat wouldve been generated by the other law of thermodynamics and the house itself got colder and stole back the warmth from the air. Global warming exist yet, bigger problems are the cause of this problem ie corpret greed, deforestation, just to name a few so PLEASE stop fixating on a lesser issue

  4. Technically the air conditioner outputs even more heat outside than it sucks out of the room, cause it generates some heat in the process of "pumping" heat from colder environment to hotter one.

  5. People protesting against climate change need to stop using air conditioning otherwise they aren't committed to changing, themselves.

  6. As someone who works as system planer, engineering technical equipment for buildings, I can say that most of the people who live in temperate climates don't actually need air conditioning. Heating and window ventilation enough create a comfortable living climate. In Germany for instance, air conditioning is only common in hotels. Nobody uses them in the private sector, unless you don't own a passive house. Unfortunately, like everywhere else, we humans are very lazy and therefore want to let everything work automatically. By doing that, we also increase the risk of diseases and allergies, because we are constantly surrounded by perfect air and can no longer bear the slight impurities and temperature differences. Making everything perfectly clean, doesn't keep you healthy.

  7. 2:04
    I like how the refrigerant leaking out is color coded to the two most common types of refrigerant in residential systems. R22 and R410a. (color of refrigerant tank)

  8. The main issue is still 100 companies produce over 70% of the worlds Climate change. So even if we did deal with the AC issue thats still 30%. We cannot fix this without government intervention on corporations

  9. I appreciate how these videos offer solutions / alternatives that individuals (as well as policy makers and institutions) can implement. Keep on educating and promoting change!

  10. Im considering going back to using fans ive had a window ac since 2012 it no longer turns off when my room gets cold enough (have do that manually) & recently it started draing rain water & condensation into my room instead of outdoors but the biggest reason is because it takes up window space & im afraid its gonna fall out the window & crush 1 my cats.

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