Via The NYT:
Cooling of America's buildings and vehicles has the annual global-warming impact of almost half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. (Three-fourths of that is attributable to fossil fuels, the rest to refrigerants.) We consume more energy for residential air-conditioning than do all other countries combined, but that's about to change. Home-cooling demand worldwide is projected to increase tenfold before 2050, stimulated by rising incomes and rising temperatures in already-warm regions. Such staggering growth will swamp out efficiency gains, outstrip renewable energy and accelerate warming.
We must break this feedback loop, but what does one say to someone living in one of the tropical nations where much of the increase in cooling demand is expected? Surely not that Americans are addicted to air-conditioning and can’t give it up, but we expect Southeast Asians to get by without air-conditioners because they're used to the heat.
No, there's little we can say until we end our own society's dependence on lavish cooling. Doing that would be a good start, but addressing energy-hungry technologies one at a time won't achieve the greenhouse-gas cuts of as much as 80 percent that science says are necessary to prevent catastrophic warming. Only a per-person ceiling on overall emissions can accomplish that.