The Conversation: Using Your Air Conditioner is a Form of Climate Denial

From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

“… If we use technologies like aircon to avoid dealing with the root causes of climate change, we are in denial.  …”

The new climate denial? Using wealth to insulate yourself from discomfort and change

Published: February 7, 2023 3.48pm AEDT
Hannah Della Bosca
PhD Candidate and Research Assistant at Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney

While the days of overt climate denial are mostly over, there’s a distinct form of denial emerging in its stead. You may have experienced it and not even realised. It’s called implicatory denial, and it happens when you consciously recognise climate change as a serious threat without making significant changes to your everyday behaviour in response. 

Much research has focused on how we intellectually distance ourselves from the unpleasant realities happening around us. What requires greater attention is how we may engage in climate denial by seeking out spaces of sensory comfort and using them to shield ourselves as the world unravels outside our window. 

Denial, thought of in this way, is entirely sensible. My colleagues and I asked residents around the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith – famously the hottest place on Earth during the Black Summer of 2019-20 – about their experiences during heatwave conditions. Unsurprisingly, sensory denial is central to how they cope with extremes – primarily by using air conditioning. 

Why does this matter?

If we use technologies like aircon to avoid dealing with the root causes of climate change, we are in denial. 

As the world heats up, demand for air conditioning has skyrocketed. The International Energy Agency has estimated that by 2050, up to two-thirds of the world’s households will have installed aircon, particularly in China, India and Indonesia.

…Read more:

Is wearing clothes or lighting a fire to stay warm in winter also a form of sensory climate denial?

If we were all truly exposed to our local climates, without clothes or blankets or any other form of personal climate modification, I suspect most of us would rapidly conclude the planet is way too cold for humans.

Correction (EW): h/t Nick – The Conversation, not SMH. I blame Climate Change… 😉