Any American who has spent much time around visiting Europeans has probably had some version of this conversation: "Why do you use so much air conditioning?" they ask. "Your buildings are ridiculously cold. I have to wear a sweater inside in the summer! And it's bad for the environment. You shouldn't do that." . . .
For Europeans reading this, I may actually be able to clear up this baffling issue: Americans use air conditioning more because America is a lot hotter than Europe is. . . .
I've lived through heat waves in Northern Europe, which cause much the same hysteria that we see in Washington when two inches of snow is forecast. Because we have air conditioning, Americans do not have to panic when the mercury rises. Nor do we have incredible fatalities among the old and vulnerable when they happen. . . .
You could argue that if Americans had not migrated en masse from the temperate north to the blistering sunbelt, we would need less energy for climate control. You could argue that, but you'd be wrong. Americans still expend much more energy heating their homes than cooling them. . . . On average, the move from cold areas to warm ones has actually saved energy, not caused us to use more.