Another report. It's not the Kohler, Lenton, Svenning and Scheffer paper published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences on May 4th and discussed in this post. This is a paper written by Raymond, Mathews and Horton published in the journal Science Advances on May 8th.
The latest paper focuses on something I touched upon in my previous post - the killer condition sometimes known as "Wet Bulb 35" when a combination of high heat and high humidity defeat the body's ability to regulate internal temperatures.
From The Guardian:
Intolerable bouts of extreme humidity and heat which could threaten human survival are on the rise across the world, suggesting that worst-case scenario warnings about the consequences of global heating are already occurring, a new study has revealed.
Scientists have identified thousands of previously undetected outbreaks of the deadly weather combination in parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America, including several hotspots along the US Gulf coast.
Humidity is more dangerous than dry heat alone because it impairs sweating – the body’s life-saving natural cooling system.
The number of potentially fatal humidity and heat events doubled between 1979 and 2017, and are increasing in both frequency and intensity, according to the study published in Science Advances.
In the US, the south-eastern coastal corner from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle experienced such extreme conditions dozens of times, with New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi the hardest hit.
The most extreme incidents occurred along the Persian Gulf, where the heat and humidity combination surpassed the theoretical human survivability limit on 14 occasions. Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the World Cup will be held in 2022, was among the places to suffer – albeit briefly – these potentially fatal weather events.
The ominous findings come as something of a surprise to scientists, as previous studies had projected such extreme weather events would occur later in the century, mostly in parts of the tropics and subtropics where humidity is already a problem.Bummer, eh? Yet it impacts wealthy nations far differently than the typical Third World country. Rich folks tend to have air conditioning in their cars, their homes and their workplaces. When conditions turn really bad we've learned to establish cooling centers in malls and stadiums and we pass out water to those needing hydration. Even then we can lose a lot of people especially the elderly and those unfortunate enough to live in apartments in older buildings that have neither air conditioning nor proper ventilation, turning them into ovens.
Think of it as the butcher's bill for our high-carbon/high emissions economy and lifestyle. Think of it as you try to justify the continuation of the petro-state.
“We may be closer to a real tipping point than we think,” said co-author Radley Horton.
Air conditioning should help mitigate the impact for some people in rich countries such as the US and Qatar, but longer enforced periods indoors could have devastating economic consequences, according to Horton. Nor is air conditioning an option for most people in the poorer high-risk countries where subsistence farming remains common.
Kristina Dahl, a climatologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US, said the new paper shows “how close communities around the world are to the limits”.