The cost of cooling: how air conditioning is heating up the world

As temperatures rise, a new book delves into the environmental toll of America’s favorite way to cool off

The widespread reliance on air conditioning in the US is explored in Eric Dean Wilson’s book After Cooling: on Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort. The book explores how air conditioning has become one of the most effective ways to cool off – and explains how harmful chemicals that make our lives comfortable also contribute to the climate crisis.

The modern refrigerant – gas in fridges, freezers and air conditioners – was first introduced in 1930s in the form of a chemical called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), better known as Freon. This chemical escaped into the air over time, ripping a hole in the ozone layer. In 1987, a global agreement was reached to ban the production of CFCs – although every year an ozone hole reappears over Antarctica in October.

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