Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Silence Is Suicide

Some time ago Eli pointed to a paper by  Steven Sherwood and Matthew Huber which described the the limit of human survival on this planet because if wet bulb temperatures go beyond 35 C, humans simply fall over and die of heat stroke.  Given our behavior, death, doom and disaster are saddling up and while they might not arrive across the entire planet before a couple of hundred years as an Anonymouse said, local excursions could wipe out large, well populated, nuclear armed regions, and those people would vote with their feet and their weapons.

As with much of climate change information, people just don't want to hear doom and gloom.  Coby Beck, from whom Eli "borrows" this video, has found the proper way of explaining

The video has a useful disclaimer


Justin is expressing what scientists discuss around the very, very worst case scenarios for climate change. He is in no way suggesting that these things are 100% definitely going to happen, merely pointing out that these are legitimate possibilities that scientists seriously discuss.
The purpose of this video is to provoke discussion and engagement through highlighting aspects of the scientific discussion that are often glossed over for fear of disengaging a weary public. We believe its important for the community to realise exactly what the worst case scenarios considered are, because after all, the decision to act is ultimately in their hands.
Eli, OTOH, thinks that much of this will happen locally in some exceedingly inconvenient places within the next 10-15 years. 


CapitalistImperialistPig said...


OK, how about specifying a couple of these "exceedingly inconvenient places?" It seems like a stretch to me.

Michael Tobis said...

So have you ever been in Edmonton, Alberta on a cold night in winter? Well, I haven't either. The point, though, is that humans can't last five minutes there without dying, yet over a million people do live in the metro area somehow.

EliRabett said...

So Michael, you going to air condition the Indus Valley?

papertiger said...

Pretty sure the Pakis have air conditioners already. Without Eli's consent, I suppose.

The oceans don't go above 31 degrees C, and they control the weather, cloud formations, water cycle, the amount of rain that falls in the monsoon in Pakistan. The whole shooting match.
Co2 can't even fog an IR detector.

ligne said...

"pakis"? keep it classy, papertiger.

Climate Etc said...


I've seen this comment made a few times - god knows where this bit of disinformation springs - but I can get up from my comfy chair, walk about 100m, dip my toe in the sea, and tell you it's about 32 deg C.

EliRabett said...

There is not nearly enough electricity let alone air conditioning in Pakistan to handle the problem and there are a lot of very poor people there. Much of South Asia is at risk, the Indus Valley is only the most likely place for the wet bulb temperature to exceed 35C.

If Eli were a military strategist that is what would be keeping the bunny up at night.

Adam said...

@Climate Etc


Anonymous said...

anon n+1

The Arabian Peninsula is an area for potentially very high dew point temperatures; maybe world-record class. Some parts of the Peninsula are now home to some of the fanciest and newest cities on the entire planet. These new cities are being constructed so as to attract millions of visitors, and full-time residents. The swallow bodies of water surrounding the Peninsula allow for significant increases in the temperature of the water and thus creating high dew-point temperatures in the surrounding atmosphere.

What do the data show relative to past dew point temperature for both the Indus Valley and the Peninsula?

rumleyfips said...

Dear Mr. Tigger:

About your 31 C ocean. Here in Nova Scotia the water ( pretty sure it's an ocean) is right around the freezing mark. In five months it will get as warm as 18C.

Have someone show you Nova Scotia on a map and repeat after me: where I live is only a tiny part of a large and interesting world.

Anonymous said...

The papieren tijger thinks these people only work inside?

--cynicus sees business for a wearable AC

Anonymous said...

I was trying to understand what it was that made this seemingly handsome young man so stupid at such an early age. Ah, then I noticed his lower left ear.

cRR Kampen said...

"Some parts of the Peninsula are now home to some of the fanciest and newest cities on the entire planet."

So some of those countries have the highest per capita CO2 bootprint in the world.
For all that so called 'lovely weather' people never leave the airco, see - they simply do not go outside.

These cities are veritable follies!

Anonymous said...

Once your osteo-arthritis kicks in, you'll be lizard sprawled on the hot rocks.

Til then, cheers.

Michael Tobis said...

My point is not that a 35 degree dewpoint some of the time in some places is devoutly to be wished. Anything but.

However, the idea that human life would be impossible in the places where this happens doesn't follow; there are plenty of people who live in places too cold to survive in the same sense.

Food supplies are another matter but in principle there is nothing to prevent agriculture from going indoors and in practice it is already happening. There are huge vegetable greenhouses in West Texas where sunshine is abundant and water is scarce; presumably the point is to recycle the moisture, not the heat energy. I am sure the per-hectare productivity is enormous in these structures. Perhaps this is where we are headed.

I think this is not a utopian scenario by any means. It tends to make living on earth hardly different from living on the moon. But it isn't extinction, the way some people spin it.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

But it isn't extinction, the way some people spin it

It is for a lot of other lifeforms but you and your spawn. I guess in your world they just don't count.

You're so special. Free air conditioners for everybody! New and improved greenhouse gasses and ozone antagonists included, order now!


I passed a woozy 40 degree day in Wetbulbland many Junes ago. Got away with mild to moderate sunstroke. Two most unexpected things were reptiles andamphibians jinking around 24-7 and fog persisting until 9 AM after an overnight low in the mid-eighties.


Even thinking of such high dewpoints may lead to miixing of C and F in the same paragraph

Dano said...

Michael Tobis,

It is not extinction the way the video puts it. That is the point.

If you have evidence saying that there will be large swathes of land that the human population will not suffer and migrate, then bring it. It will save the world's militaries a ton of money in scenario planning, meetings, communication on the issue. Because that is what they see and they've been planning for it for a decade or so now.

They aren't seeing extinction or the end of the earth.

Hard landing or soft landing. Soft landing only if we can figure out how to change our basic nature, which is what the vid brings up.



EliRabett said...

Michael, many people who live in the threatened areas have no access to potable water and electricity let alone air conditioning. Your analogy with cold fails because you can warm up by putting on more layers, sitting in a small room without circulation, etc. What are you going to tell them to take off their skin?

C'mon, you are usually more sensible than this.

caveat emptor said...

there are plenty of people who live in places too cold to survive in the same sense.

lots of easy, cheap and low tech ways to stay warm, not so much for cooling down (beyond a certain point)


Eli should recall that Alt is a geographic dimension alongside Lat & Long.

Our deliverance from hot fog hyperthermia took the form of a two hour drive to a mile above the level of steamy Lago Izabal.

Same is true of the Indus Valley- which is why OBL elected to chill out in horse-healthy Abbottabad rather than swelter in the plains

EliRabett said...

Bring your AK and your mule Russell. Oh yeah also your MREs

Michael Tobis said...

Yes, the low tech ways to stay cool fail when the humidity is high. Yes, our current economic mechanisms will not allow the sort of adaptation that would be required. But it isn't physically impossible.

I am not saying this is a good plan, nor that it is likely. I am just saying it's not inconceivable, which isn't the way it's being spun.

Anonymous said...

Geez, Michael... The video did not predict an extinction event - you will recall that Justin stated that carbon powered industrial civilization would probably break down before a significant part of the earth exceeded 35C wetbulb temps for significant periods. But what happens to global agriculture well before then - happy talk about "food towers" is all well and good, but have you ever driven across the hundreds of thousands of acres in the Great Plains that grow the crops required to sustain global civilization?? You propose replacing that with high-rise gardens?? You should really stop looking for Guy McPherson wannabes behind every climate discussion - this video was not about extinction, it was about the fact we're now committed to some really bad outcomes, that will get much worse unless people start taking the problem seriously.

Michael Tobis said...

"it was about the fact we're now committed to some really bad outcomes, that will get much worse unless people start taking the problem seriously."

yes I agree.

I was just quibbling and perhaps I shouldn't have.


Didn't need the AK last time Eli; horses were provided and we had half a harrods hamper in the saddlebags.

It really is a pretty cool 'Stan, if you don't mind earthquakes.

Steve Bloom said...

Eli didn't underline it, but the Pakistan example is perhaps of greatest concern because of nuclear weapons. As Russell says, it is indeed not far from those lowlands to survivable climes, but as most of the local crops will have been wiped out by heatwaves (see today's science news), what will they eat? What will their government do to stave off collapse? Nuclear extortion of India, perhaps? That'll end well.

But by then India will be suffering very badly as well, with China not too far behind. Ah, now we're talking more serious nukes.

Consider also the populations of places like Egypt, with nowhere even to try to walk to.

The Syrian diought and civil war are a harbinger.


Amen to that, Steve, The 30 day agricultural water supply in Pakistan's Indus reservoirs is Not Good for nuclear stability .

Lotharsson said...

"It will save the world's militaries a ton of money in scenario planning, meetings, communication on the issue."

...only to replace them by expensive work on the alternative scenarios. Any honest analysis has to look at both sides of the ledger.

Anonymous said...

Time for Egypt to build larger higer pyramids to escape the heat. Unfortunately on top is only room for one.

Possibly the same goes for mountains. People prefer the plains for a reason.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps Russell visited the 'Stan a long time ago? Nowadays simply passing through by bike with six armed escorts still gets you shot. Perhaps he should have been allowed the right to bear arms himself, that way he could have defended himself or scared-off the attack?

Another nail in Michael's (or should I have said Tillerson's?) "we'll adapt" meme.


Anonymous said...

anon n+1

" . . . before a significant part of the earth exceeded 35C wet bulb temps for significant periods. "

This is silly. Worse than silly, but I won't use the correct descriptions.

What do the data show about what fraction of the earth, especially where people live, even has the potential to reach 35C wet bulb temperature. And double especially for significant periods of time.

Anonymous said...

Anon n+1 might be interested in Sherwood & Huber, PNAS 2010.

From the abstract I quote
Any exceedence of 35 °C for extended periods should induce hyperthermia in humans and other mammals, as dissipation of metabolic heat becomes impossible. While this never happens now, it would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7 °C, calling the habitability of some regions into question. With 11–12 °C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed. Eventual warmings of 12 °C are possible from fossil fuel burning.



Cynicus may recover his wits if he retreats from his pyramid's sunstruck summit into its cool interior.

I frequent northern, not southwestern Pakistan , which is quite another country, one I counsel visitors to shun.

Anonymous said...

But Russell, there's mostly stone in a pyramid's interior, not a place to play cricket.

Nice story 'bout some other places in 'Stan though I worry how long the Talibs allow these tranquil place to remain.



'Mostly stone" ?

There's a bloody mall in there.

Pete Dunkelberg said...

Come to Eli's for gallows humor.

Rachel said...

I've lived in both hot and cold places and it's much easier to stay comfortable in a cold climate than a hot one. As Eli points out, you can add layers. You can also start a fire or jump on the spot for ten minutes. There's really no relief in a hot climate unless you have access to air conditioning. The only other option I see is for humans to build their homes underground.

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