Air conditioning adoption is increasing dramatically worldwide as incomes rise and average temperatures go up. Using daily temperature data from 14,500 weather stations, we rank 219 countries and 1,692 cities based on a widely used measure of cooling demand called total cooling degree day exposure. India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Brazil, Bangladesh and the Philippines all have more total cooling degree day exposure than the United States—a country that uses 400 terawatt-hours of electricity annually for air conditioning.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
All code and related materials used in the analysis are available as Supplementary Software.
Gertler, P., Shelef, O., Wolfram, C. & Fuchs, A. The demand for energy-using assets among the world’s rising middle classes. Am. Econ. Rev. 106, 1366–1401 (2016).
Wolfram, C., Shelef, O. & Gertler, P. How will energy demand develop in the developing world? J. Econ. Perspect. 26, 119–137 (2012).
Auffhammer, M. & Wolfram, C. Powering up China: income distributions and residential electricity consumption. Am. Econ. Rev. 104, 575–580 (2014).
Davis, L. & Gertler, P. Contribution of air conditioning adoption to future energy use under global warming. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 5962–5967 (2015).
Park, J. R., Goodman, J., Hurwitz, M. & Smith, J. Heat and learning. Am. Econ. J. Econ. Policy. (in the press).
Burgess, R., Deschenes, O., Donaldson, D. & Greenstone, M. Weather, Climate Change and Death in India. Working Paper (2017).
Carleton, T. et al. Valuing the Global Mortality Consequences of Climate Change Accounting for Adaptation Costs and Benefits. Working Paper (Univ. Chicago, 2018).
Barreca, A., Clay, K., Deschênes, O., Greenstone, M. & Shapiro, J. S. Adapting to climate change: the remarkable decline in the U.S. temperature–mortality relationship over the twentieth century. J. Polit. Econ. 124, 105–159 (2016).
Waite, M. et al. Global trends in urban electricity demands for cooling and heating. Energy 127, 786–802 (2017).
Wenz, L., Levermann, A. & Auffhammer, M. North–South polarization of European electricity consumption under future warming. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, E7910–E7918 (2017).
Auffhammer, M., Baylis, P. & Hausman, C. Climate change is projected to have severe impacts on the frequency and intensity of peak electricity demand across the United States. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 1886–1891 (2017).
Slade, M. The Future of Cooling: Opportunities for Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning (OECD/IEA, 2018).
Shah, N. et al. Opportunities for Simultaneous Efficiency Improvement and Refrigerant Transition in Air Conditioning. Working Paper (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2017).
Sivak, M. Potential energy demand for cooling in the 50 largest metropolitan areas of the world: implications for developing countries. Energy Policy 37, 1382–1384 (2009).
Sivak, M. Will air conditioning put a chill on the global energy supply? Am. Sci. 101, 330–333 (2013).
Petri, Y. & Caldeira, K. Impacts of global warming on residential heating and cooling degree-days in the United States. Sci. Rep. 5, 12427 (2015).
Atalla, T., Gualdi, S. & Lanza, A. A global degree days database for energy-related applications. Energy 143, 1048–1055 (2018).
Isaac, M. & Van Vuuren, D. P. Modeling global residential sector energy demand for heating and air conditioning in the context of climate change. Energy Policy 37, 507–521 (2009).
McNeil, M. A. & Letschert, V. E. Modeling diffusion of electrical appliances in the residential sector. Energy Buildings 42, 783–790 (2010).
Baumert, K. & Selman, M. Data note: heating and cooling degree days. World Resources Institute (2003).
Auffhammer, M. & Aroonruengsawat, A. Simulating the impacts of climate change, prices and population on California’s residential electricity consumption. Clim. Change 109, 191–210 (2011).
Deschênes, O. & Greenstone, M. Climate change, mortality, and adaptation: evidence from annual fluctuations in weather in the U.S. Am. Econ. J. Appl. Econ. 3, 152–185 (2011).
Biddle, J. Explaining the spread of residential air conditioning, 1955–1980. Explor. Econ. Hist. 45, 402–423 (2008).
Akpinar-Ferrand, E. & Singh, A. Modeling increased demand of energy for air conditioners and consequent CO2 emissions to minimize health risks due to climate change in India. Environ. Sci. Policy 13, 702–712 (2010).
Gupta, E. Global warming and electricity demand in the rapidly growing city of Delhi: a semi-parametric variable coefficient approach. Energy Econ. 34, 1407–1421 (2012).
Abhyankar, N., Shah, N., Park, W. Y. & Phadke, A. Accelerating Energy Efficiency Improvements in Room Air Conditioners in India: Potential, Costs–Benefits, and Policies. Working Paper LBNL-1005798 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2017).
World Energy Outlook 2018 (OECD/IEA, 2018).
Newell, R. G., Jaffe, A. B. & Stavins, R. N. The induced innovation hypothesis and energy-saving technological change. Q. J. Econ. 114, 941–975 (1999).
Acemoglu, D. & Linn, J. Market size in innovation: theory and evidence from the pharmaceutical industry. Q. J. Econ. 119, 1049–1090 (2004).
Georgescu, M., Morefield, P. E., Bierwagen, B. G. & Weaver, C. P. Urban adaptation can roll back warming of emerging megapolitan regions. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 2909–2914 (2014).
Barreca, A. Climate change, humidity, and mortality in the United States. J. Environ. Econ. Manage. 63, 19–34 (2012).
The authors have not received any financial compensation for this project, nor do they have any financial relationships that relate to this research. We are grateful to seminar participants at the University of California, Berkeley for helpful feedback.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Figs. 1–7, Tables 1–9, discussion, methods and references.
Complete country- and city-level lists of CDDs.
CDD_code_20191018.R corresponds to the code used for the main analysis, while cdd_extraction_tutorial.pdf provides a tutorial for readers who would like to work with 5 km_18C.tif (see Source Data Fig. 1).
About this article
Cite this article
Biardeau, L.T., Davis, L.W., Gertler, P. et al. Heat exposure and global air conditioning. Nat Sustain 3, 25–28 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0441-9
How Prices, Income, and Weather Shape Household Electricity Demand in High-Income and Middle-Income Countries
SSRN Electronic Journal (2020)
Journal of Cleaner Production (2020)
I cannot live without air conditioning! The role of identity, values and situational factors on cooling consumption patterns in India
Energy Research & Social Science (2020)
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization (2020)