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What global warming means for air conditioning

Big Data Download

If consumers think the heat this summer has been boosting energy bills, just wait: Electricity costs could be dramatically higher in the next few decades as a result of climate change, according to weather experts.

The need for air conditioning in the summer is expected to increase, and the need for heating in the winter is expected to decrease, according to government climate scientists. And that could affect energy companies.

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"What we expect to happen is that winters will become warmer, therefore demand for energy, natural gas and things will gradually decrease as we move through time, but offsetting that will be the fact that...[the air-conditioning] season is going to be much longer," said Paul Walsh, vice president of weather analytics at The Weather Channel. "It's now clearly evident that the climate is warming and will continue to warm over the next 10, 20, 30 years and beyond," Walsh told "Big Data Download."

Besides energy companies, climate change is expected to affect small businesses and farming as well, Walsh said. Search engine data indicate that when extreme weather events occur, more web searchers are researching climate change, according to a recent Harvard University study.

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In areas that with industries impacted by weather, like the states that rely on agriculture, as well as Colorado and the Northeast, which rely on the ski industry, recent abnormal temperatures led to increased concern about global warming, judging from web search trends, researchers found.

"When there is a lack of snow in the wintertime, you see increased interest in the terms 'global warming' and 'climate change,'" Walsh noted.

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