The Responsible Survivialist

Get Ready To Sweat…A Lot
May 12, 2010, 3:48 pm
Filed under: Climate Change, Future Scenarios, The Coming Transition | Tags: , ,

Stuart Staniford over at Early Warning has been doing a series on climate change, specifically how as the globe gets warmer in the coming century, this warming will make some areas currently inhabited by man, uninhabitable.

Or in other words, it will be too damned hot to live there!

His first post “Odds of Cooking the Grandkids”, introduces “An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress”, written by Steven C. Sherwood and Matthew Huberb, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online on May 3rd.

Since it costs $10 to download and read the entire paper, Staniford goes on to summarize it for us. Huberb and Staniford looked at the worse case scenarios for climate change and then compared the temperatures predicted with human tolerance for such temperatures.

Tolerances such as can we survive them.

Humans and most other mammals with a core body temperature of around 98F, need to keep that temperature within a close range. A little up or down is ok, but much more or less for any extended period of time can be damaging or fatal. Humans regulate that temperature when they are in hot environments by sweating but sweating can be effected by the humidity of the air. High humidity makes it harder for our sweat to evaporate and lessens the degree which it cools us.

This difference between the actual air temperature measured by a thermometer and the effect of humidity gives rise to something called a “wet bulb” temperature. This is the temperature a thermometer displays when it’s sensor is wrapped in a wet cloth and air is allowed to blow across it.

We know that in health people a wet bulb temperature of 95F is the limit at which we can survive. Get above that for more than a few hours and we begin to get sick and then die. Now we can survive temperatures above 95F because the humidity is almost always very low there. Dry heat, we can handle.

Currently there is nowhere on the planet that the wet bulb temperature gets above 95F, except in the rarest of situations but what happens as the climate changes and temperatures go up?

global worse case temps

The upper globe shows what we have now with just a few degrees of climate change. The temperature scale on the right is wet bulb temperatures both current and projected.

The lower map is the expected temperatures with the worse case scenario of 11C (40F) warming. The areas in pink and white are the concern, which includes most of the eastern US, much of inland South America, Africa, India, sections of northern China, and most of Australia. Such a sharp rise will render those areas bare and lifeless as the heat drives people out, kills animals and probably all but the heartiest of plant life. Lose the plants and the soil then goes.

Remember the Dust Bowl of the early 20th century. It was caused in no small part by soil erosion. Black clouds choking off life. Imagine the Eastern United States as bare, hot and desolate as current Arizona or Nevada.

You can’t grow a garden there.

And while we are focused on the effect of high temperatures on people, don’t forget that animal livestock and agriculture will also be seriously effected. Cows will die and fields will wither.

A recent article on Daily Science points this out.

“Yields of three of the most important crops produced in the United States – corn, soybeans and cotton – are predicted to fall off a cliff if temperatures rise due to climate change.

In a paper recently published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, North Carolina State University agricultural and resource economist Dr. Michael Roberts and Dr. Wolfram Schlenker, an assistant professor of economics at Columbia University, predict that U.S. crop yields could decrease by 30 to 46 percent over the next century under slow global warming scenarios, and by a devastating 63 to 82 percent under the most rapid global warming scenarios.

The study shows that crop yields tick up gradually between roughly 10 and 30 degrees Celsius, or about 50 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. But when temperature levels go over 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit) for corn, 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) for soybeans and 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit) for cotton, yields fall steeply.”

Can we say bad?


Does this mean that I expect this to come about?

Probably not. Nothing near the upper temperatures that they looked at in the report. Scientists after all look at the limits of things. Though, if things don’t get that worse, they can still get bad.

Even the moderate temperature increase forecasted of 1-2C or 5-7F, will make heat waves more common and with more and more happening each year, with longer and longer durations. We’ve seen that happening now. Heat related deaths are already the number one cause of weather related deaths in the US.

How much worse will it become as the planet heats up and weather grows weirder?

Something else to consider though. Not many years ago predictions for Greenland ice melt were rather conservative and now we see even worse melting than predicted. If global heat rise is worse too, this prediction may be more and more likely too.


What can a Responsible Survivalist do though?

Learn to adapt and be comfortable with a bit higher temperatures. Don’t turn on the air conditioning at the first breath of Summer. Open a window instead. Its ok to sweat a little. A cool moist towel wipes it off and helps you stay comfortable.

Put on lighter clothing when you are around the house. I have several sets of used surgical scrubs that I change into when I come home from work. Lighter clothing allows air to circulate around your body and helps cool you.

Hydrate. Drink plenty of water, not sodas or caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee. Same with alcoholic beverages like beer. Caffeine and alcohol increase the effects of the heat.

Watch using fans when the humidity is high. While moving air helps cool you, by pulling the air that your sweat has evaporated into away so fresh air can replace it, when humid air is blown on you, it can prevent sweating and actually raise your core body temperature further.

Download the Red Cross pamphlet Heat Wave

And don’t forget your pets. Cats and dogs can suffer from heat related injuries just like we can. It goes without saying, don’t leave pets or children in automobiles during a heat wave. Even during moderate temperatures cars can heat up rapidly to dangerous temperatures.

Check out these articles for more about keeping pets cool:
How to Cool Your Cat Down in the Summer
Cool Off Your Dog


Staniford’s second post, “Heat Stress and India” looks more specifically at the living and working in a high wet bulb environment, focusing in on India. Well worth the read especially if like me, you work in a building without air conditioning.

By the way, here’s a picture from that post of what workers at a northern Indian quarry do at mid-day. They seek shelter from the Sun in crude huts of stone.

Is this to be America in the years to come?

surviving the heat


Water, Water, Everywhere and Nowhere
April 5, 2010, 5:36 pm
Filed under: Climate Change, Future Scenarios

At this moment, rain is coming down hard in my neighborhood, with the occasional sharp crack of lightning to scare the cat. The down spouts of my gutters gushing with water, most washing down the driveway and into the street. One of my “to-do list” items is a rain water barrel for the corner near the garden. Don’t think I’ll get to it until the Fall though.

So, it’s with a bit of sad humor at the rainfall that I sit here reading background articles on the Aral Sea. Perhaps you’ve seen the news reports about U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit there Sunday, touring the area.

If not, then here’s the basic facts.

The Aral Sea is located in Central Asia, between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which for most of us who don’t keep up with all the “Stans” means it lies north of the Iranian and Afghanistan border. It was once the fourth largest fresh water body but has since shrunk to 10% of its original size. This is because the Soviets have diverted the water flowing from the two rivers that feed the sea to agriculture. With no water coming in, evaporation did its work. Begun in the 20s but stepped up in the 40s, it did succeed in growing alot of crops but then destroyed the fishing industry of the people who lived on the sea.

the aral sea now and then

While the shrinking of the sea was foreseen by Soviet planners, one of the unplanned on consequences has been that when the water evaporates it leaves behind deposits of salt and toxins from the pollution that plagued the sea. Now winds blow those chemicals into the atmosphere where people breath them.

Many of our water supplies are drying up due to our own actions. Here in the US, the Ogallala Aquifer in the southern high plains (Texas and New Mexico) is being mined at a rate that far exceeds replenishment. 36 states in the U.S. in some form of water stress, from serious to severe.

I’ve said we face a world of the future that will be both hot due to climate change and scarce due to the depletion of needed resources. While I can do without oil if need be, none of us can go for long without water.

The Aral Sea is one of the first casualties of the coming days. I don’t think it will be the last.

abandoned ship in the aral sea

ADDED: I thought this article was a grim reminder of the fact that economic reality doesn’t always mean physical reality.

Water bills go up in down economy as usage drops

You’d think that if you used less of something, your costs would also go down. Not in our world it seems…

Selling Out The Ones You Guard
March 5, 2010, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Climate Change, Green Issues | Tags: ,

Johann Hari, writing for “The Nation”, posted yesterday a damning expose on how many of those who claim to be at the gates protecting the planet, are in fact aiding the sack of our proverbial Rome.

Pretty sad when you think of it. You might want to seriously rethink that upcoming charity check you send every Spring.

You can read Hari’s article here: “The Wrong Kind Of Green”.

“Environmental groups used to be funded largely by their members and wealthy individual supporters. They had only one goal: to prevent environmental destruction. Their funds were small, but they played a crucial role in saving vast tracts of wilderness and in pushing into law strict rules forbidding air and water pollution. But Jay Hair–president of the National Wildlife Federation from 1981 to 1995–was dissatisfied. He identified a huge new source of revenue: the worst polluters.

Hair found that the big oil and gas companies were happy to give money to conservation groups. Yes, they were destroying many of the world’s pristine places. Yes, by the late 1980s it had become clear that they were dramatically destabilizing the climate–the very basis of life itself. But for Hair, that didn’t make them the enemy; he said they sincerely wanted to right their wrongs and pay to preserve the environment. He began to suck millions from them, and in return his organization and others, like The Nature Conservancy (TNC), gave them awards for “environmental stewardship.”

Companies like Shell and British Petroleum (BP) were delighted. They saw it as valuable “reputation insurance”: every time they were criticized for their massive emissions of warming gases, or for being involved in the killing of dissidents who wanted oil funds to go to the local population, or an oil spill that had caused irreparable damage, they wheeled out their shiny green awards, purchased with “charitable” donations, to ward off the prospect of government regulation. At first, this behavior scandalized the environmental community. Hair was vehemently condemned as a sellout and a charlatan. But slowly, the other groups saw themselves shrink while the corporate-fattened groups swelled–so they, too, started to take the checks.

Christine MacDonald, an idealistic young environmentalist, discovered how deeply this cash had transformed these institutions when she started to work for Conservation International in 2006. She told me, “About a week or two after I started, I went to the big planning meeting of all the organization’s media teams, and they started talking about this supposedly great new project they were running with BP. But I had read in the newspaper the day before that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] had condemned BP for running the most polluting plant in the whole country…. But nobody in that meeting, or anywhere else in the organization, wanted to talk about it. It was a taboo. You weren’t supposed to ask if BP was really green. They were ‘helping’ us, and that was it.”

She soon began to see–as she explains in her whistleblowing book Green Inc.–how this behavior has pervaded almost all the mainstream green organizations. They take money, and in turn they offer praise, even when the money comes from the companies causing environmental devastation. To take just one example, when it was revealed that many of IKEA’s dining room sets were made from trees ripped from endangered forests, the World Wildlife Fund leapt to the company’s defense, saying–wrongly–that IKEA “can never guarantee” this won’t happen. Is it a coincidence that WWF is a “marketing partner” with IKEA, and takes cash from the company?”

Where’s That Global Warming When We Need It?
February 14, 2010, 3:24 pm
Filed under: Climate Change

wheres the global warming

discuss recent heavy snow fall and why that is expected


Washington Post

Guardian report by Minboit

Al Gore Op-Ed at the NY Times

Weather Underground, technical report as to why winter storms are so much more intense


In a follow up on my previous reply re: land based ice in Antarctica and Greenland and the amount that sea level will rise if they melt:

“Sea levels are likely to rise by about 1.4m (4ft 6in) globally by 2100 as polar ice melts, according to a major review of climate change in Antarctica. Conducted by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), it says that warming seas are accelerating melting in the west of the continent.”

(I was correct that should all of the Antarctica ice sheets melt it would raise the sea level by 64 meters but given the cold reserves there it’s not likely.)

As for Greenland:

“Melting of the entire sheet would raise sea levels globally by about 7m (20ft).”

Arctic Ice institute

Swords Above Our Head
January 21, 2010, 10:57 am
Filed under: Climate Change, Peak Oil, The Coming Transition

talk about the various limiting factors, including briefly peak oil and climate change

The nine planetary boundaries

“climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution.”

Nature magazine’s articles on this
“The sad thing is it isn’t just climate change. It’s excessive use of fertilizers, which run off into the river, and into the seas causing algae bloom and fish die offs. It’s the increase in ocean acidification which is killing corral reef which are a foundation of the sea ecosystem. It’s giant patches of trash floating in the oceans. It’s fresh water getting harder and harder to find. It’s burning hundred if not thousands of acres a day of forest to convert it into farm land for cash crops.”

Rising CO2 might not be good for us

“Even if you don’t think global warming is manmade, it’s hard to argue that CO2 levels have not risen. Here’s some scary unintended consequences of higher CO2 levels:

Rueters story

“Staples such as cassava on which millions of people depend become more toxic and produce much smaller yields in a world with higher carbon dioxide levels and more drought, Australian scientists say. Gleadow’s team tested cassava and sorghum under a series of climate change scenarios, with particular focus on different CO2 levels, to study the effect on plant nutritional quality and yield. Both species belong to a group of plants that produce chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides, which break down to release poisonous cyanide gas if the leaves are crushed or chewed.

While it was possible to use processing techniques to reduce the level of toxin in the cassava leaves, it was the 50 percent or greater drop in the number of tubers that caused most concern, Gleadow said. About 750 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America rely on cassava as a staple. The starchy tubers are used to make flour and the plant is ideal in dry regions because of its hardy nature.

The good news was that the levels of toxin in the tuber didn’t increase with CO2, unlike the edible leaves. “The downside of that is that we found the plant didn’t grow nearly as well,” she said. “There’s been this common assumption that plants will always grow better in a high CO2 world. And we’ve now found that these plants grew much worse and had smaller tubers.”

Plant study

“Research published by three scientists at Southwestern University in Texas suggests that the price of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is sharply falling nutritional value in staple crops upon which 40 per cent of the world’s population relies for its dietary protein.

Daniel Taub, Brian Miller and Holly Allen analysed more than 220 experiments in which plants were exposed to levels of carbon dioxide that ranged from the present ambient level to about double the existing level. They discovered that as the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, the protein in wheat, barley, rice, potatoes and soy beans diminishes, in some cases quite sharply.

Barley lost 15.3 per cent of its protein, potatoes lost 14 per cent, rice and wheat lost almost 10 per cent. Soy beans fared better, but even they lost 1.4 per cent of protein. As these plants absorb more carbon dioxide into their tissues, the researchers found, they do so at the expense of other compounds, including those which are essential parts of proteins.

This may all seem rather esoteric, but a 10- to 15-per-cent shortfall in the protein available to 40 per cent of the world’s population should make everyone sit up and take notice because the effects would be felt pretty quickly by the other 60 per cent, too.

Cereal grains, particularly barley, are key components in feed for the animals — chickens, pigs, cattle — that provide much of the protein in the developed world. A 15-per-cent reduction in the nutritional value of animal feed could only mean less efficiency for farmers and rising costs for consumers of meat, eggs and dairy products as well as for consumers of the two cereal grains — wheat and rice — that dominate world supply.

Well the solution’s easy, some might counter. Just use the additional land that comes available as temperate zones move north to increase production and that will offset any falling nutritional values.

But the climate change jigsaw is complicated and what seems logical doesn’t necessarily follow. For example, the quality of soils in northern latitudes is much poorer than the deep, rich soils that now comprise the North American and European breadbaskets. In Canada, 95 per cent of the land mass will never be suitable for field crops. It doesn’t matter what the climate is like, you can’t grow wheat on glaciated rock or mountains.”

Please Fasten Your Seatbelts
January 14, 2010, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Climate Change, Peak Oil, The Coming Transition

the coming decent


There is a storm coming.

As much as you or I would like our carefree world of IPods and Play Stations to continue, there are real and pressing problems that will soon make that happy reality the stuff of fond remembrances and envious longings. Reality is preparing to bitch slap the human race with a vengeance.

You have a simple choice ahead of yourself. Get slapped or not.

I’m here to teach you the “Not”.

A Talk With James Lovelock
December 29, 2009, 6:31 pm
Filed under: Climate Change