Seeking Relief from Heat, Europeans Turn to Air Conditioning

Concerned about their health and wary of technology, Europeans have long cast a skeptical eye on that most commonplace of U.S. appliances, the air conditioner. But this summer’s blistering heat has begun to change all that. Air conditioner sales in Europe are growing by more than 10 percent per year — and this summer, the units are going like, uh, hotcakes. That’s great news for the industry, but not for the environment: As European greens have been quick to point out, air conditioners cool the inside air but expel heat into the streets. Moreover, they use large amounts of energy and therefore contribute to global climate change, which many say is what’s causing this summer’s high temperatures in the first place. The E.U. already has strict environmental standards for air conditioners, but France, for one, hopes to go further by requiring architects to design eco-friendly buildings that will be easier to cool in the summer and heat in the winter.