Europeans are using their heaters less and are instead switching on air conditioners as summers get hotter and winters milder, according to data from Eurostat, the EU statistics agency.
Heating degree days (HDD), a measure of how much and for how long outside air temperature was lower than a specific base temperature, have decreased 11% since 1979 compared to 2021.
By contrast, cooling degree days (CDD) – when the temperature was above a base level – have tripled in the same period. This has seen demand for air conditioning and other cooling units increase significantly over the last 40 years.
This change illustrates the changing nature of global temperatures as a result of the greenhouse effect. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), global temperatures between 2011-2020 were an average of 0.95-1.20℃ warmer than in pre-industrial times, making it the hottest decade on record.
Unsurprisingly, in the measured 1979-2021 period, the highest number of heating days were recorded in Finland whereas Malta recorded the highest number of cooling days.
“This means that for a given building, the need for heating was ten times greater in Finland than in Malta between 1979 and 2021,” Eurostat notes.
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Rising temperatures look likely to increase the demand for energy during the summers, in order to power air conditioning units.
Europe has also recently experienced some of its warmest winters on record. The average temperature between December 2019 and February 2020 was 3.4℃ warmer than the average in 1981-2010, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
This could lead to radical changes in the amount of gas we burn during the winter. Gas consumption is already falling across the world. On average, countries consumed 1.4% less gas in 2020. This figure increased to 2.5% less in OECD countries.
Although average temperatures are increasing across the continent, that isn't to say that all EU nations require air conditioning. There were the least cooling requirements for Ireland (0.03 CDD), Sweden (0.37 CDD), and Finland (1.36 CDD). In other words, on no day of the year was it ever necessary to turn on air conditioning in Ireland or Sweden.
Last year, 52 EU regions had no need to turn on their air conditioners all year.