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Artificial cooling such as refrigeration and air conditioning have grown to an increasingly global scale in less than a century, primarily with regard to food preservation and comfort cooling. As world industrial growth continues, this shift to artificial cooling is projected to increase as much as 33-fold by 2100. Multiple harmful feedback loops associated with climate change and urbanization exacerbate this trend: a hotter climate increases the demand for cooling in all sectors. Urbanization creates “heat islands” and growth-amplified consumption. Drought and heat combine to eliminate forests. Hotter temperatures increase the risk of food spoilage as well as crop failures, increasing demand for longer-term cold storage. The increase in artificial cooling increases energy use and employs refrigerants that are potent agents of climate change; hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants today are roughly 1400-4000 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. What is the potential to reverse this trend and how does it relate to pathways of degrowth? New cooling technologies which reduce energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are evaluated alongside traditional methods of food storage, natural cooling of homes, and innovative approaches to public space and transport. Scenarios and options are compared for their relative benefits not only in reducing energy, resource and GHG profiles, but for their potential to re-localize food sources, revitalize urban spaces, and change patterns of transport — both personal transport and the shipment of goods — in the context of Degrowth.

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Alternatives to refrigeration and air conditioning“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.