Air Conditioners Can Teach Us A Lot About International Development

What’s the relationship between air conditioning, air temperature and income levels? In other words, at what income level and in what climate zones do people opt to purchase A/C? The answer to these questions could have a profound implication on the quality of life of people in the developing world — and also seriously strain fragile energy grids and contribute significantly to global carbon emissions.

But the question was not seriously studied…until now.

On the line is Lucas Davis who is co-author with his University of California colleague Paul Gertler of a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examines the relationship between climate, income and air conditioning in Mexico. What they find is both fascinating on its own and also deeply consequential to discussions about international development and climate change in other warm and rapidly developing countries like India, which is currently in the midst of a massive heatwave.

This is a very interesting study of a niche topic with exceedingly profound global implications. It turns out air conditioners can teach us a lot about international development!