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Social media reveals growing AC popularity

NETHERLANDS: Data from social media has provided an insight into the increasing popularity of air conditioning worldwide. 

Researchers at Radboud University in Nijmegen argue that conventional data sources are limited to a few countries in the northern hemisphere but don’t provide a good view on what’s happening around the world in regions such as Asia and Africa.

Using social media data from Facebook and Instagram across 113 countries, the researchers were able to complement conventional data sources in improving understanding of the extent and drivers of AC adoption at a global level. It is hoped that the data will improve our understanding of how climate change might be increasing the adoption of AC units in new regions and amongst different groups of people.

“This data tells us which types of people are shown advertisements related to purchasing air conditioning, how many people clicked through, and how many of them actually decided to install one or more units. We looked at data on age, relationship status and parenthood to get an idea of which groups are more likely or less likely to purchase an AC,” explained lead researcher Sibel Eker, assistant professor of system dynamics.  

Though it seems obvious that many people will invest in air conditioning units as a way to reduce the heat in their home, there is no concrete way of knowing exactly how many people will invest in them in the future. “We have some data on how many households own an AC unit in countries in the global north, and what types of people buy them, but we don’t have a good view on what’s happening around the world in regions such as Asia and Africa,” Eker said. 

“That’s an issue, as the lack of these units implies a high heat vulnerability, and as these units often increase carbon emissions and lead to higher energy consumption in certain areas.”

The data is said to have shown that, on a global level, middle aged, highly educated, married, or cohabiting males, as well as parents of small children, tend to express more online interest in AC units. 

“Regions such as the Balkans and Middle East, regions that are increasingly vulnerable to rising temperatures and heatwaves, show the highest online interest in AC. In those countries, population groups that have been known to be reluctant to adopt to AC, such as the elderly, show a relatively high online interest in AC. That indicates that their attitude might be changing, and we might see a higher adoption of AC units in those regions than we have in the past,” Ever added. 

The research is published in One Earth.

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