Essay topics: Adapted from Eric Klinenberg, “Viewpoint: Air-Conditioning Will Be the End of Us.” ©2013 by Time Inc. Originally published July 17, 2013.
1 Earlier this week, as the temperature in New York City hit the upper 90s and the heat index topped 100, my utility provider issued a heat alert and advised customers to use air-conditioning “wisely.” It was a nice, polite gesture but also an utterly ineffectual one. After all, despite our other green tendencies, most Americans still believe that the wise way to use air conditioners is to crank them up, cooling down every room in the house—or even better, relax in the cold blasts of a movie theater or shopping mall, where someone else pays the bills. Today Americans use twice as much energy for air-conditioning as we did 20 years ago, and more than the rest of the world’s nations combined. As a climate-change adaptation strategy, this is as dumb as it gets.
2 I’m hardly against air-conditioning. During heat waves, artificial cooling can save the
lives of old, sick and frail people, and epidemiologists have shown that owning an
AC unit is one of the strongest predictors of who survives during dangerously hot
summer weeks. I’ve long advocated public-health programs that help truly vulnerable
people, whether isolated elders in broiling urban apartments or farm workers who
toil in sunbaked fields, by giving them easy access to air-conditioning.
3 I also recognize that air conditioners can enhance productivity in offices and make
factories safer for workers who might otherwise wilt in searing temperatures. Used
conservatively—say, to reduce indoor temperatures to the mid-70s in rooms that,
because of shortsighted design, cannot be cooled by cross-ventilation from fans and
windows—air conditioners may well generate enough benefits to balance the
indisputable, irreversible damage they generate. But in most situations, the case for
air-conditioning is made of hot air.
4 What’s indefensible is our habit of converting homes, offices and massive
commercial outlets into igloos on summer days, regardless of how hot it is outdoors.
Recently, New York City prohibited stores from pumping arctic air out onto the
searing sidewalks in an attempt to lure customers while burning through fossil fuels
in suicidal fashion. I can’t help but wonder whether cities like New York will ever
prohibit stores from cooling their facilities below, say, 70°F. No doubt a law like that
would raise even more objections than Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban
big sodas, but it might well be necessary if we can’t turn down the dial on our own.
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5 I’m skeptical that American businesses and consumers will reduce their use of
air-conditioning without new rules and regulations, especially now that natural gas
has helped bring down energy bills and the short-term costs of cranking the AC are
relatively low. Part of the problem is that in recent decades, the fastest-growing
U.S. cities—places like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Austin—have effectively been built on
air-conditioning. (This is also true in the Middle East and Asia, and as a result, global
energy consumption is soaring precisely when it needs to be lowered.) Throughout
the country, most designs for new office, commercial and residential property rely
entirely on AC, rather than on time-honored cooling technologies such as shading
from trees and cross-ventilation from windows and fans. As a result, there is now an
expectation that indoor air will be frigid on even the steamiest days everywhere from
the Deep South to the Great West. What’s worse, this expectation is spreading to the
nations where American culture carries influence; sales of air conditioners rose 20%
in India and China last year.
6 Trying to engineer hot weather out of existence rather than adjust our culture of
consumption for the age of climate change is one of our biggest environmental blind
spots. If you can’t stand the heat, you should know that blasting the AC will
ultimately make us all even hotter. Let’s put our air conditioners on ice before it’s
As a matter of fact, climate change, or global warming, has been of the utmost concern worldwide. That being said, air-conditioning has been an unseen contribution to this serious problem. Eric Klinenberg, in his article “Viewpoint: Air-Conditioning Will Be the End of Us”, addresses the urgency to reduce the dependence on air-conditioning, with the aid of allusion to a current situation, humor tone and clear reasons and examples.
To begin with, the author starts off with a current state of affairs in New York City, in terms of its distressfully unprecedented temperature. He mentions the advice of his utility provider to the problem to “wisely” use air-conditioning. The word “wisely” is enquoted in the passage in order to add a sense of humor to the piece of writing and to somewhat criticize this advice, as well as the way Americans use air-conditioners. The word “ineffectual”, meaning ineffective, implies that try as one might, one hardly can persuade and change the tendency and the way people use air-conditioners. To prove his point, Klinenberg provides some factual information that “Today Americans use twice as much energy for air-conditioning as we did 20 years ago” and emphatically, “more than the rest of the world’s nations combined”. He strongly stresses the reliance American people on air-conditioners. He draws the readers’ attention by using a strong, quite informal for an article, word:“dumb”. He shows his disapproval to the way Americans deal with the problem of the effect of air-conditioning on climate change.
Furthermore, Klinenberg shows his unbiased view on the problem by stating that he “hardly against air-conditioning”. He provides some beneficial merits of air-conditioning, including helping old people, reducing heat during “dangerously hot summer weeks”, enhancing productivity in workplaces. He mentions “epidemiologist” in order to make his argument more valid and trustworthy to the readers. Strong adjectives like “broiling”, “sunbaked” and “searing” enable the writer to address the problem of heat and consequently, highlight the value of air-conditioning. Without air-conditioner, workers wouldn’t be able to work effectually due to the extreme heat. He also alludes to the fans and windows to show air-conditioner’s dominance over both of which. Therefore, he emphasizes the benefits of air-conditioning, despite the “indisputable” and “irreversible, both of which are strong adjectives, the downside of it. Although the benefits from air-conditioning cannot outweigh its drawback, according to the author, it is still widely used because of “hot air”.
Since the author holds an impartial viewpoint on the real value of air-conditioning itself, why does he disapproval of the use of it? He attributes problems related to air-conditioning to people’s habit, stating that it is “indefensible”. He criticizes the way stores wasting air-conditioning just to “lure” customers in. In doing so, stores burn an abundance of fossil fuels, which is considered to be one of the main cause of climate change. With the sensible use of the adjective “suicidal”, he addresses that over-burning fossil fuels is nothing else but to destroy our own precious environment. Klinenberg suggests that if cities like New York “prohibit” stores from maintaining their temperatures under 70°F, they will be “no doubt” objected. He recalls “Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban big sodas”, which was highly disapproved of, to create a humor tone in his article as well as to stress the absurdity of such ideas. This is because he is “skeptical” that the use of air-conditioning would be cut off, especially without “new rules and regulations” because of its economical benefits. For example, he illustrates that in recent decades, the use of air-conditioning has even been increased in many parts of the world. Air-conditioning has outclassed traditional, or “time-honored” ways of cooling by trees, windows and fans. Statistics of the increasing sales of air-conditioners shows that air-conditioning will continue to play an integral part in people’s lives.
Last but not least, Klinenberg condemn most people for trying to get rid of hot weather by air-conditioning instead of adjusting our consumption of it. He considers this is a “blind spot” of humans since people would never be able to realize and fix what they have done wrong for the sake of the environment. Although air-conditioners help us withstand heat, eventually, fossil fuels released from them would contribute to making the environment we are living in “even hotter”. People are blinded by the short-term benefit of air-conditioning that they tend to forget the detrimental effects that it brings to the world. The phrase “put our air conditioners on ice” implies that we shouldn’t use air conditioners as much as we do now or it will be too late for us to do anything.
In conclusion, Eric Klinenberg uses allusion to a current situation, humor tone and clear reasons and examples so as to warn the audience to less rely on air-conditioning. Although air-conditioners enable us to bear the increasing heat, they are, in fact, contributing to climate change.