Your fridge and the damage it’s doing to the planet


Whether you are a farmer in Kenya transporting milk to the local market, the owner of a London corner shop or a patient undergoing chemotherapy in Japan, we all rely on devices that keep us, and the things we consume, cool. Without a fridge our food would quickly go off, milk would rapidly sour and food poisonings would likely skyrocket.

In the coming months, refrigeration is likely to play a vital role in the current pandemic too. As vaccines begin to roll out, they will need enormous cold-storage supply chains for them to be manufactured, distributed and stored until they are administered. Many other life-saving medications – from insulin to antibiotics – also need to be stored in this “cold-chain” to prevent them from degrading and becoming useless.

In schools, offices, shops and homes in many parts of the world, refrigerants also play an important role in the air conditioning systems that keep these buildings comfortable.

The cooling industry is important, but it is also incredibly polluting – accounting for around 10% of global CO2 emissions. That is three times the amount produced by aviation and shipping combined. And as temperatures around the world continue to rise due to climate change, the demand for cooling will increase too.

With countries and companies under pressure to slash their contribution to climate change, the cooling industry is facing a radical overhaul to the way it produces and disposes of refrigerants. Over the past three decades, governments around the world have pledged to crack down on the potent climate-warming chemicals used as coolants, while companies have started seeking natural, less polluting alternatives. But environmental campaigners say changes must be made much faster if international climate goals are to be met.

Consumers too can play their part through the devices they buy, how they use them and what they do with refrigerant-filled equipment once finished with them.

But what is it about refrigerants that makes them so bad for the climate?

Refrigerators and air conditioning units certainly use a fair bit of energy, especially when they are running continuously in hot climates. But they also contain chemicals that readily absorb heat from the environment as they turn from being a cool liquid into a gas. As they transition back to liquid, they release the heat into the outside – either outside a building or outside a fridge – before being cycled back to begin the cooling process again.

These same chemicals are also used in some types of insulation foam and as the propellant in aerosol spray cans.

Continue reading the full and original article from:  The BBC

Featured image courtesy of:  Ello on Unsplash

You might also be interested in reading:  How to live a more sustainable lifestyle

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