A new research provides a first glimpse of what drives and motivates people to buy air-conditioners worldwide, through social media advertising data.
The data, the researchers from Radboud University of The Netherlands said, is important to understand where air-conditioners are sold globally to limit their impact on our energy grids and climate.
They have published their research in the journal One Earth.
Sibel Eker, assistant professor of system dynamics at the university, said that the data that they looked at showed that globally, middle aged, highly educated, married, or cohabiting males, as well as parents of small children, tended 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," said Eker.
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The researchers used data from Facebook and Instagram across 113 countries.
"This data tells us which types of people are shown advertisements related to purchasing air conditioning, 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 what types of people are more likely or less likely to purchase an AC," explained Eker.
Eker said that while conventional data sources such as household surveys are accurate, they are costly and context-dependent, for instance, limited to a few countries.
By using social media data, he said that they had been able to complement conventional data sources in improving their understanding of the extent and drivers of AC adoption at a global level.
"This provides valuable data to researchers and other organisations worldwide, in understanding how climate change might be increasing the adoption of AC units in new regions and amongst different groups of people," said Eker.
Air-conditioning units, preferred by more and more people globally as an essential component of living with climate change, are power-hungry and are likely to increase energy consumption in areas where they are used often.
"We have some data on how many households own an AC unit in Western countries, and what types of people buy them. But we don't know have a good view on what's happening around the world in regions such as Asia and Africa," explained Eker.
"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. As such, we decided to look at data from social media to see if that provides some indication of interest and purchasing levels in those areas," said Eker.
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