Stan Cox, the author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways To Get Through the Summer), looks at the implications of the spread of air conditioning across the developing world. He notes that while use of AC has doubled in America in a little over a decade, it is absolutely exploding in China and India.
Consider this: The number of U.S. homes equipped with air conditioning rose from 64 to 100 million between 1993 and 2009, whereas 50 million air-conditioning units were sold in China in 2010 alone..... America’s century-long reign as the world cooling champion is coming to an end. And if global consumption for cooling grows as projected to 10 trillion kilowatt-hours per year — equal to half of the world’s entire electricity supply today — the climate forecast will be grim indeed.
With less exposure to heat, our bodies can fail to acclimatize physiologically to summer conditions, while we develop a mental dependence on cooling. Community cohesion also has been ruptured, as neighborhoods that on warm summer evenings were once filled with people mingling are now silent — save for the whirring of air-conditioning units. A half-century of construction on the model of refrigerated cooling has left us with homes and offices in which natural ventilation often is either impossible or ineffective. The result is that the same cooling technology that can save lives during brief, intense heat waves is helping undermine our health at most other times.
We know that we can't live without air conditioning. But it is going to get increasingly difficult to live with it. More in Yale 360: Cooling a Warming Planet: A Global Air Conditioning Surge