Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has launched a $3 million prize for air conditioner innovations. Fast Company pointed out that one of the first things that people buy when they move out of poverty is an air conditioner. And the world is unable to handle the emissions that are coming from the rise in air conditioners.
In India, China, and other emerging countries, people make three major purchases as their income rises — which includes a TV, a refrigerator, and air conditioner. Currently, there are about 1.2 billion air conditioner units running worldwide and 4.5 billion air conditioners are expected to be in the world by 2050. Air conditioning units alone could push global warming by half a degree by the end of the century says a study cited by Fast Company.
“The increase in energy consumption for cooling represents a massive risk to meeting our climate goals,” said Branson via Fast Company.
To address this problem, Branson announced the Global Cooling Prize, which is a $3 million competition to drive air conditioning innovations. Branson said that this prize can “literally help save the world from the disaster it’s facing.” And the Global Cooling Prize is partially supported by the Indian government.
In order to participate in the competition, companies will have to submit a solution that has five times less climate impact than standard air conditioners at no more than twice the cost. Branson pointed out that this is a $20 billion market that is “ready for a shake-up.” This competition would likely be most appealing to researchers and companies that are already working on air conditioning solutions.