As Temps Rise, Europe Considers A/C. That Could Make The World Even Hotter.

Naomi Snyder

When Alison Fullerton and her husband Jay lived in Europe for three years, it was gripped by a series of summer heatwaves. The couple ― who have since moved back to Tennessee ― bought a cute, portable air conditioner they called R2D2 because their house in Stuttgart, Germany, had no air conditioning.

“There was just an attitude that we all have to do our part to take care of mother earth,’’ Alison Fullerton said. “If we complained, they’d say, ‘It’s not bad. It’s only a couple weeks of the year.’ Americans want everything to be easy.”

Much of Europe, especially northern Europe, is notorious for its lack of air conditioning — notorious, at least, among the occasional Americans who book a trip during a summer heatwave and come to regret it. 

These days, 90% of households have air conditioning in the U.S., where the high temperatures in southern areas can average over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. But with A/C, homes, office buildings, subways and shopping malls often remain icy. Meanwhile, across much of northern Europe, residents are accustomed to sweating indoors. 

The U.S. had 374 million household air conditioners in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental research group. That’s 23% of the world’s installed air conditioners. Europe had 97 million ― 6% of the world’s total. 

Green building executive Rick Fedrizzi saw — and felt — the difference firsthand when attending a meeting recently in a German office building where the room was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. “The Germans were not complaining,’’ he said. “The Americans were doing anything to cool off, fanning themselves, drinking ice water, hoping the meeting would be over quicker.” 

For many Europeans, A/C is just not part of the culture in the same way as it is in the U.S. Harry Koninis, a Greek marketing executive who recently moved to Bonn, Germany, has no air conditioning in his apartment or office and no plans...

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