Filed under: Climate Change, Future Scenarios, The Coming Transition | Tags: Climate Change, future, warming
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
ADDED: I thought this article was a grim reminder of the fact that economic reality doesn’t always mean physical reality.
You’d think that if you used less of something, your costs would also go down. Not in our world it seems…
Having recently watched James Cameron’s “Avatar”, I read with some interest Michael T. Klare’s op-ed at the CBSNews’ website titled “Will Earth’s Last Stand Sweep the 2013 Oscars?, in which he sketches one possible world view of the year 2144, the time that “Avatar” happens in, and one I feel could very well come to be.
(Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is the author of “Resource Wars, Blood and Oil” and “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet”.)
“It’s the torrid summer of 2144, just a decade before Avatar begins. (That movie takes place in summer 2154, after a flight from Earth that, we’re told, involves six continuous years of sleep, which helps us backdate Jake Scully’s Venezuelan combat tours.) As it has been for decades, the world is at war, with competing power blocs fighting bitterly over a diminishing pool of vital resources.
Three great power centers dominate the global resource struggle, all located in the northern latitudes where the climate still remains tolerable and the land still receives sufficient rainfall to support agriculture. The first of these, in whose legions both Scully and Quaritch fight, is the North American Federation, founded after the United States, facing desertification in its southern half, invaded and absorbed Canada. The second, Greater China, incorporating northern China, the Korean peninsula, and eastern Siberia (seized from Russia in a series of wars), dominates what’s left of Asia; the third, the North European Alliance, encompassing Germany, Russia (west of the Urals), and Scandinavia, relies heavily on Arctic resources. As in the world portrayed by George Orwell in 1984, these powers continually jockey for dominance in shifting alliances, while their armies face one another in the torrid, still relatively resource-rich parts of the planet. In this neo-Orwellian world, warfare and the constant pressure of resource competition are the only constants.
Thanks to global warming, the planet’s tropical and subtropical regions, including large parts of Africa, the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, as well as Mexico and the American Southwest, have become virtually uninhabitable. Many island nations and coastal areas, including much of Florida, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines, lie under water. Critical raw materials like oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, copper, and cobalt are perennially scarce. Starvation is a constant fear for those not affluent enough to pay for increasingly expensive genetically-modified crops and meat produced on corporate farms with multiple chemical inputs.
Large-scale industrial civilization still persists, but many once-industrialized areas have been abandoned, and what factories and transport systems remain are constantly constrained by limited energy supplies and the lack of steady flows of vital resources. Oil is particularly hard to come by, and so, in all three power blocs, its use is largely restricted to the military, security forces, emergency services, the largest of corporations, and the very rich. (If you want to get a sense of such a world, imagine Mel Gibson’s 1979 movie Road Warrior on steroids.) Other sources of energy, including natural gas and uranium, are also in increasingly scant supply. Renewable sources, including wind and solar power, help to make up some, but not enough, of the difference, while a shortage of critical minerals — copper, cobalt, tin, manganese, titanium — limits the scale of many industrial undertakings.
For ordinary people — and only somewhat less so for the elites of the planet’s heavily militarized states — survival is a constant struggle. Outside of the industrialized power centers, life involves a daily search for food, water, and energy of any sort, as well as whatever precious goods (gems, weapons, bits of technology) might be traded to get those basics. For the big corporations and their government sponsors, as they send the Scullys and Quadritches to the distant corners of the planet to enforce their will, the struggle is no less fierce for control of the world’s few remaining deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, copper, and uranium.”
Chilling in its forecast but most people reading this will say to themselves “That’s over a hundred years from now, why worry?”.
Well, Responsible Survivalists worry about things that will affect their children and their grand children, that’s what being responsible is. More over though, the world Professor Klare lays out won’t be one that just appears over night. The conditions that create such a dark and brooding future will happen over time. Time that you and I will likely live to see.
And we are already seeing such conditions now.
If you have been reading the news this past year, you will have noted I hope the world wide buying spree China has been on, gobbling up long term contracts for essential resources from copper to coal, and especially oil. Unfortunately while most of the Western World stay glued to their televisions watching “American Idol” and our elected officials here in the US play partician games of chicken, the Chinese are already running the next, most important Olympic Sport, “Grab It Now, While You Can.”
Will the rest of the World wake up in time. Can you depend on our governments for your survival?
I doubt it, don’t you?
So become like China, look to securing your own future and that of your family, by securing the resources, the knowledge and the skills beginning now, that you will need in the future of the 21st century.
Follow Up – Dated 03.01.10:
“China eyeing perks of ice-free Arctic”
“China has started exploring how to reap economic and strategic benefits from the ice melting at the Arctic with global warming, a Stockholm research institute said Monday.
Chinese officials have so far had been cautious in expressing interest in the region for fear of causing alarm among the five countries bordering the Arctic, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.
“The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months, leading to both shorter shipping routes and access to untapped energy resources, has impelled the Chinese government to allocate more resources to Arctic research,” SIPRI researcher Linda Jakobson said.”
As I said earlier, China gets its. Do you?
Rich nations are moving into Africa to buy up land to feed their people. Will this lead to more war?
Many in the Peak Oil community fear that the US and by extension, much of the Western World, will one day see an economic collapse like what happened to the USSR after the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Dmitry Orlov of ClubOrlov lived through the fall of communist Russia and saw it first hand. He wrote this reader favorite back in 2006, which is still worth the read today, especially when you consider how close we came to just such a collapse last year in the financial markets.
Saying that, one of the major determinants in my mind that a major change is underway is a change in the Gulf Stream. Even slight changes will have global effects. I truly hope the current forecasts are wrong.
They are probably not and that only scared the crap out of me up until last night. Now having watched a new video and read a DOD report, I’m ready to drink myself into a coma and forget it all, my happy face picking daisies and fresh tomatoes.
I wanted to add to this thread a good video on the possibility of the Gulf Stream collapse that I had seen in the past. A check on Youtube yielded up a different video I had not watch.
(I believe it was released 2005)
The first half of the video is a good over view of the Gulf Stream and how it works. It puts a face on some of the AGW climate scientists and their work that I thought was nice. At least to me the video seemed to refrain from a rabid sense of preaching and stick to the facts.
The last third of the video thought is chilling. Forget about decades of slow climate change and incremental disasters…
How about the scenario where global warming stalls the Gulf Stream and plunges Europe and North America back into an Ice Age in the matter of a few years? Think Siberian temperatures across the Continent. While causing massive drought across Africa and China as the change in ocean currents reduces the typical monsoons so much of SE Asia needs.
Can we say bad?
I realize it’s a slim worse case scenario presented but still, don’t we talk about zombies?
BTW, here is the DOD report put together by the Woods Hole Oceanographic people referenced in the video.
Overview articles about the report:
You may also enjoy the latest CIA estimate, Global Trends 2015 here:
Ghostface In reply:
It’s probably worth discriminating between the Gulf Stream and the AMOC.
The Gulf Stream is a primarily wind-driven current (a Western Boundary current, part of the North Atlantic Gyre) that will be with us pretty much as long as there is an Atlantic ocean basin and the planet keeps spinning.
The AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) is part of the thermohaline circulation of the global ocean and is what has been implicated in past abrupt climatic changes. The probable cause of its past disruption is massive influx of freshwater, either in the form of ice sheet decay or abrupt glacial meltwater lake drainage.
Collapse of the AMOC is a very low probability event on timescales of a century or two. Much more likely on the timescales we’re predominantly concerned about are either a weakening of the AMOC as it slowly freshens and/or committing it to a collapse down the road.
Bear in mind that comparisons to past AMOC collapse are not all that illuminating when imagining its potential effect on an anthropogenically warmed planet- while significant regional cooling of parts of North America and Western Europe would no doubt occur, this would be taking place against a backdrop of significantly warmed temperatures. There’s virtually no chance of a Day After Tomorrow scenario of plunging the North Atlantic into glacial conditions in the next hundred or so years.
Weakening of the AMOC does have significant implications for regional precipitation and sea level rise, however, that make it a subject of active research and concern for policy makers.