A cool idea whose time has come

Whenever we are faced with a challenge, we should always look for the opportunity. Many breakthrough innovations have stemmed from a simple yet disruptive idea.

With our planet growing hotter every year, we need new ideas that can help us achieve the Paris Climate Goals and limit global warming, while helping vulnerable people cope with the weather extremes of a warmer planet.

About a year ago, a group of researchers at Rocky Mountain Institute (now merged with The Carbon War Room, which was incubated by Virgin Unite) had such an idea – what if we could trigger a major technology change in how we cool our homes today?

Room ACs alone could account for over 0.5 degrees in global warming by the end of the century if nothing is done about their efficiency. But the good news is that this climate threat is also a major business opportunity. The $60 billion residential air conditioning market today is set to grow to nearly four times that size by 2050 due to massive demand for comfort cooling.

However, it is still rooted in 100-year old technology. The room air conditioners of today are barely scratching the surface of its efficiency potential. It means we end up cooling ourselves at the cost of warming our planet.

This was the thinking behind of the Global Cooling Prize— a global innovation competition — that I’m proud to support. The Prize was launched by a group of partners led by the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Government of India, and Mission Innovation in November 2018. It called for innovators across the globe to develop a breakthrough cooling solution that has five times less climate impact that the most commonly sold room ACs on the market.

Fast-forward one year and we have eight promising cooling technology solutions identified as finalists of the Global Cooling Prize – a huge congratulations! It’s exciting to see so many people get involved, with start-ups and research institutes, as well as established industry giants among the finalists.

Their designs and concepts will now be tested in the real world. This will be a game-changer for people, for businesses, and for the environment. When scaled, this breakthrough solution could, by 2050, avoid up to $1.7 trillion worth of new electricity generation capacity and ultimately mitigate up to 0.5 degrees celsius of global warming by the end of the century - all while giving a better quality of life to families around the globe. 

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This is one of the biggest opportunities we have to transform the future of our planet through innovation and it will take us all — innovators, manufacturers, policymakers, investors, and consumers — to solve the global cooling challenge we are faced with today.

Keeping cool with radically less global warming is an idea whose time has come. Let’s all work together to provide a cooler planet for our future generations. Head over to the Global Cooling Prize to find out more.

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