Cold comfort

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 July, 2010, 12:00am

Why do people live in Hong Kong if they really want to live below the Antarctic Circle? Here's a news flash - Hong Kong is a subtropical island, it's supposed to feel a bit toasty at this time of year. The city, however, seems to be in a state of denial about this fact with most buildings aiming to keep their internal temperature near the 23-degrees-Celsius mark or below. For five months of the year this temperature is significantly lower than the city's daily mean temperature outdoors and between five and eight degrees lower than the forecast high for May through to September. In short, residents are spending a fortune - and doing untold damage to the environment - on creating an indoor climate closer to that of San Diego or Rome, cities that are far north of the subtropical zone. In this process we have developed an unhealthy addiction to refrigerated air.

At a recent lunch in Central, I sat outside on a charming terrace surrounded by greenery and sun umbrellas. It was a little warm - but comfortable - and yet every other outdoor table was empty.

There is only one plausible explanation. In Hong Kong, we have gone from using air conditioning to make our lives tolerable to using it as a means of creating an absurd and unsustainably chilly environment. This is an intolerably selfish waste of the world's resources but we know that change comes slowly in the fragrant harbour. So let's hereby launch 'Project 25 degrees'. If everybody adjusts their thermostat upward to this extent, it might prevent some Hongkongers from becoming freezoholics and it could add a few years to the planet's lifespan. Alternatively, we could all move to Alaska.