Air Conditioning May Save Your Life

The headlines from last week’s Science Advances research study were more bad news for city folks. Their new data projects heat-related deaths for 15 cities across the US under the different levels of future warming. Major cities, such as New York City and Los Angeles, it said, could see hundreds or thousands more deaths in extreme heat unless drastic cuts in emissions happen in time.The New York Times coverage added:

“The people that are at risk in cities are the very young, the very ill, and, generally, the poor,” Dr. Wehner said. “It’s people who don’t have access to air-conditioning.”
That does not always mean older people in cities. Dr. Wehner noted, for example, that in the central parts of California, those most at risk are Hispanic men in their 50s. They tend to be farm laborers, and farm fields and construction sites offer little respite from hot weather.

Today, it’s only the 10th of June but already extreme heat in Southern California and the same in Northern California are causing more than just our usual extreme fire dangers, they’re also endangering many more lives than you probably realize. Especially in places that don’t have air-conditioning because they never needed it before.

Count India and Pakistan among them, as Think Progress reports:

“Other parts of the world are also experiencing extreme climate impacts. India and neighboring Pakistan are currently in the midst of a severe and deadly heat wave, with temperatures topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. At one point last week, five of the hottest 15 places globally were in India or Pakistan; almost all of India was under a heat advisory last Wednesday.







Even as far north as Finland, extreme heat like has never been seen before is currently setting new records:



Despite 100 degree temperature just 15 miles inland, so far, here at the beach, we haven’t yet had to turn on our new multi-zone ductless mini-split system. As regular readers and viewers know we put it in preemptively because we know how quickly the climate crisis is bringing the heat – and because we’re fortunate enough to be able to afford it.

We may be fortunate (so far) but as we learned from ace environmental journalist, Molly Peterson, in her eye opening reports last year in partnership with KQED, many who aren’t so lucky are highly vulnerable to heat illness and death at home or on the job –

Even in cool, coastal California, extreme heat sickens and kills people. In 2017, extreme heat killed 14 people in the Bay Area. Over Labor Day weekend, six alone died in San Francisco. The heat also sent hundreds more to the hospital.


As Molly’s Twitter thread today also illuminates, with input from Daniel Swain (Climate scientist at , , and . Author of the Weather West blog.) “Coastal California is in many ways uniquely vulnerable, as buildings/infrastructure are not designed for extreme heat (and very few homes/relatively few places of work have air conditioning).”

Molly reported last year that the inside of houses can be hotter than outdoors, especially at night when interiors can be 15-20 degrees hotter, and as Molly Tweeted today:

For most people who need air conditioning it’s just too expensive, especially for those who are the most vulnerable – elderly homeowners who bought their homes many years ago and are now on fixed incomes. But it doesn’t have to be too expensive.

Customers of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) are given significant rebates for installing systems like we did here at our house. When SMUD customers replace their gas furnace with a heat pump HVAC system like we did they get a bonus rebate up to $2,500. They also receive up to $500 towards each new electric circuit they install, up to a total of $2,500 if they also require a panel upgrade. Eligible circuits include: EV charger, cooktop / range, and clothes dryer.In fact, SMUD has a total of $13,500 in rebates as part of their Go-Electric Bonus Program

Homeowners can pre-qualify for easy and affordable SMUD financing on energy efficient equipment upgrades that can save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. And unlike PACE loans, borrowers won’t find any mysterious interest charges, origination costs or pre-payment fees that are common with many home improvement loans.

That’s exactly the kind of rebate program customers of Southern California Edison, the electric utility that serves my area, the Clean Power Alliance Community Choice utility, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the other electric utilities here in California and across the country need to be offering without delay.  The cost of those rebates are well worth the lives and well being of their millions of customers.

And the added bonus is not only will these super efficient air conditioning systems save lives and make your new hot climate livable, but these mini-split systems also include electric heat pump heating that replaces dirty fossil fuel gas units and cut emissions from homes by half. But that’s another story.


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