This tweet from Jason Hickel says it all:
It’s wild to see how, in the middle of a devastating heatwave, American politicians and economists are lining up to call for more economic growth. The cognitive dissonance is staggering.
Though I doubt that the politicians and economists are actually experiencing dissonance. To them, endless growth is taken as a given — and cities are baking because of it.
Removing heat from people’s homes is going to become a bigger problem as climate change worsens. Air conditioners do a good job at it, but by pumping all the heat outside, they only move the discomfort and danger somewhere else. And of course when the power source for those air conditioners (which account for 6% of the electricity consumed in the US¹) produces more CO2, they accelerate the root cause of the problem they attempt to address.
People have been living in high densities in hot climates for millennia without air conditioning. Architectural practices that reflect the local climate (such as Windcatchers² in hot, arid climates) are key to making this possible — but so are cultural practices, like shifting the “productive” hours of the day away from the hottest times.
While we should absolutely lean heavily on ancient and indigenous practices for creating comfortable living spaces, this is another area where pursuing degrowth necessitates innovation. As long as we have a global communications network and computational power, we can iterate on solutions much more quickly than our ancestors. Which is a good thing — with climate change accelerating, we need to.
¹ Some basic facts about air conditioning from the US Energy Department
² Wikipedia article on Windcatchers, an ancient application of “passive downdraught evaporative cooling”.