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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Droughts, heatwaves and water shortages in France and Germany

A recent report in the Financial Times draws attention to the consequences of three years’ of drought on the economies of these two European countries.

https://www.ft.com/content/6b46014e-cbf6-4152-a8ad-087cddd51706?accessToken=zwAAAXQDjpTwkc9rRgFOy_ZBUtOorQh83dUXBg.MEUCIQDyEMkj2Cj8TMa7qRqDabhw7ocMpq6cQ6xHQC-HP1DjZQIgapz617D_1xuy4LAXIjDrh7a5FE0VKETFx7P7TGAHV4w&sharetype=gift?token=5e8613f3-b74d-412c-9852-f0c2e9f3a627

germany drought

A dried-up river bed in Germany

Parts of continental Europe have been struck by drought for the third year in a row, with desiccated pastures in France’s Loire valley, campsites near Marseille destroyed by a forest fire, hosepipe bans in western Germany and fish farms in Saxony running short of fresh water.

This year’s July was the driest in France since 1959 according to the national weather office, with less than a third of normal rainfall, while the average temperature between January and July was the highest since its records began.

Germany had one of its driest spring seasons in more than a century this year, and rainfall in July was nearly 40 per cent below normal.  There are fears that there will be a repeat of the low water levels on Germany’s major rivers, such as the Rhine, that happened two years ago, disrupting shipping and hitting the country’s economy.

“The heat has been roasting everything,” said Clément Traineau, a cattle farmer near Angers on the Loire. “We had not a drop of water in July.”

A report in Nature demonstrated that the drought over the two previous consecutive summers (2018-19) was unprecedented in the last 250 years.  The long dry summer of 2003 had been devastating for crops but their predictions suggested that drought, caused by climate change, is more likely to feature in the future.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-68872-9

Their data also suggested that there has been an increase in the area affected by drought in recent years (see figures below).

figure3



 


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Global Heating and Climate Breakdown: a report from Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)

Bill-McGuire-2000_cropped

Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, University College London, argued at the Responsible Science conference that mainstream climate science reports downplay the scale of the threats currently faced, especially from sea-level rise, extreme heat, shutdown of the Gulf Stream, and increased seismic activity. Here he spells out why.

Article from Responsible Science journal, no.2; online publication: 6 July 2020

Also to be found on the website of SGR, of which Bill McGuire is a patron:

https://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/global-heating-and-climate-breakdown


“A very fine line separates alarmism from what a risk expert colleague of mine likes to refer to comically as Compulsive Risk Assessment Psychosis (CRAP) – scaremongering as it is otherwise known. This distinction applies to global heating and ensuing climate breakdown as much as anything else; probably more so given the imminent and desperately serious ramifications of the climate emergency. My concern, however, is that – up until now at least – the message reaching the ears of both the great and the good, and the general public, is simply not alarmist enough. We have alarms for a reason, after all, they save lives. What I mean by this is that it doesn’t set the alarm bells ringing about just how bad things could get as hothouse Earth becomes an ever more likely reality.

In other words, the picture that people see and take on board, of what a broken climate will look like, is not complete. It ensures that the general view of the global heating threat is watered down, one that fails to encompass scenarios involving more deleterious impacts on society. In so doing, a sense of false security is engendered and the ‘call to arms’ to tackle global heating, diminished.

The problem can be traced to the very top. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) undoubtedly has done vital work in building understanding and appreciation of the global heating threat, flagging likely future scenarios, and signalling what needs to be done, and how quickly – to stave off the worst of climate breakdown. Without it we would already be in a very dark place indeed. But there are downsides too.

The IPCC’s periodic reports are conservative and compiled to reflect a broad consensus. This means that they fail to address global heating and climate breakdown scenarios that, although currently regarded by the climate science community as less likely, are – nonetheless – perfectly possible. Because the IPCC reports form the climate bible that drives news stories in the press and broadcast media, this incomplete picture is – inevitably – the one pitched to the public.

The blame cannot, however, be placed at the door of the IPCC. Every report it publishes is scrutinised line-by-line by representatives of all 197 nations and groupings signed up to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These include the United States, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia and others, who have a history of playing down the climate emergency. As a matter of course, objections are raised to any elements of the text that such signatories regard as pushing too far the envelope of what global heating and climate breakdown might bring. As a consequence, much peer-reviewed climate change science fails to make the reports and, as a consequence, goes largely unnoticed by most of the media and the public.

Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the area of future sea-level rise. In its 2019 Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere (SROCC)1, the IPPC’s worst case likely range for sea-level rise by the period 2081-2100 is 51 – 92cm, with a figure of up to 110cm provided for 2100. In stark contrast, peer-reviewed research, not addressed in the report, forecasts that more rapid break-up of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could see global sea levels 292cm higher by the end of the century2. Such an order of rise is supported by polar ice melt doubling times at the lower end of the 10-40 year range3 and by a tripling in the rate of Antarctic ice loss between 2012 and 20174. If maintained, such a tripling time of five years would see sea level climbing by around 5cm a year by the mid 2040s.

Another possible consequence of global heating that is underplayed in the IPCC reports is the collapse of the Gulf Stream and associated currents – known in oceanographic circles as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). In the aforementioned 2019 SROCC report, the IPCC recognises that ‘…the AMOC has weakened relative to 1850-1900….’ but that there is ‘….insufficient data to quantify the magnitude of weakening…’ or to ‘…properly attribute it to anthropogenic forcing.’ The report goes on to say that the ‘….AMOC is projected to weaken in the 21st century….although collapse is very unlikely.’ Other research, reported in a range of peer-reviewed papers is, however, more worrying. The strength of the AMOC has declined by 15 percent since the mid-nineteenth century and is now at its weakest for 1500 years and probably since it last collapsed 11,500 years ago5,6. Shutdown, should it occur, could happen extremely rapidly, perhaps over the course of just a year or two, leading to major cooling of the North Atlantic region and serious knock-on effects on sea level and weather patterns.

In it’s 5th Assessment Report, published in 20147, the IPCC notes that ‘…it is very likely that heat waves will occur with a higher frequency and duration.’ It does not, however, say anything about the terrifying prospect of so-called humid heat waves. These arise when the wet bulb temperature – a measure of the combination of heat and humidity – reaches 35°C. Such conditions, if sustained, are unsurvivable, so that even a fit and healthy human in the shade has only about six hours to live. The required combination of heat and humidity has not been encountered in modern times, but the conditions were almost met in parts of Iran in July 2015. Looking ahead, the second half of the century is forecast to see humid heat waves affecting the Ganges and Indus valleys of South Asia8, the Persian Gulf and China. Most at risk is the North China Plain, where widespread irrigation is predicted to contribute to the occurrence of humid heat waves later this century that could affect up to 400 million people under a business as usual emissions scenario9.

Other elements of global heating and climate breakdown research are omitted from IPCC publications too, or at least soft-peddled. The key question then, is how can this information be made generally available and how can it’s profile be raised so as to present a more complete picture of what a hotter world might look like. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy solution. One way forward might be for the IPCC to openly acknowledge the existence of relevant and important peer-reviewed research that supports non-consensus findings, and to publish this material in addenda to the main reports. This would, or course, require the agreement of the signatories of the UNFCCC, which is likely to prove difficult, if not impossible.

Another way forward could be the establishment of an independently-vetted, non-political website, perhaps validated by national academies of science, on which peer-reviewed research findings not included – for one reason or another – in IPCC publications, could be lodged.

Building a more complete picture – for both stakeholders and the public – of what global heating and climate breakdown could mean, would also benefit from more climate scientists sticking their heads above the parapet and saying in public, what they currently reserve for private conversations. Many climate scientists clearly have an issue with telling it like it is, as high-lighted in a recent analysis10.

This showed that later observations of the climate system (e.g. ice extent and sea-level rise) were typically worse than earlier predictions made by climate scientists, and that key climate indicators were often underestimated. The study also unearthed a general feeling within the climate science community that it needed to give the impression of univocality – speaking with one voice – and a consensus outlook. The analysis also revealed that – when the world is watching – climate scientists worry about how they will be perceived. Taken together, all this means that most researchers working on global heating and climate breakdown tend to play down worst-case scenarios, thereby presenting an unrepresentative picture of their impacts and consequences. What the climate science community should be doing is not making consensus a goal. If it exists, it will emerge in its own right. If it doesn’t, then clear differences of opinion need to be acknowledged and clarified. The time for sweeping inconvenient research findings under the carpet and keeping heads down for fear of reputational damage or derision are long gone. We all have a right of access to the complete picture of the world our children and grandchildren could inherit. Failing to provide this may well mean that the actions we take in this critical decade fall short of what is needed to avoid catastrophic, all-pervasive, climate breakdown.”

 

Bill McGuire’s novel – SKYSEED – an eco-thriller about geoengineering gone wrong, is published in September 2020.

References

1 IPCC 2019, Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/

2 Le Bars, D. et al. 2017 A high-end sea-level rise probabilistic projection including rapid Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss. Environmental Research Letters 12. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6512/meta

3 Hansen, J. et al. 2016 Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3761-3812.

4 The IMBIE Team 2018 Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet 1992 – 2017. Nature, 558, 219-222.

5 Caesar, L. et al. 2018 Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nature 556, 191 – 196.

6 Thornalley, D. J. R. et al. 2018 Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the past 150 years. Nature 556, 227-230.

7 IPCC 2013-14 5th Assessment Report. http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/

8 Im, E., Pal, J. S & Eltahir, E. A. B. 2017 Deadly heatwaves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia. Science Advances 3 (8), e1603322.

9 Kang, S. & Eltahir, E. A. B. 2018 North China Plain threatened by deadly heatwaves due to climate change and irrigation. Nature Communications Article 2894.

10 Oppenheimer, M. et al. 2019 Discerning experts: the practices of scientific assessment for environmental policy. University of Chicago Press. 304pp.



 


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Australia is burning: is this a portent of what is to come?

As our hearts go out to the people of Australia, as they battle with unprecedented and devastating fires across the country, with lives lost, as well as homes and a billion of their unique marsupial and other wildlife species being burnt to death, I have to ask the question:

Is this one of the first of many such events that we are going to witness over the next decades?  Is this going to be the face of the effects of climate change in the future?  Are we going to witness even more harrowing events and deaths across the world?

AustralianBushfire

koala

Photographs from Australia during the fires in recent weeks

wombat after fire

Animals that survive the fires, like this wombat pictured in New South Wales, will struggle to find food and shelter

How much more dreadful is it going to become globally, as we see multiple fires, floods, hurricanes, monsoons, high temperatures, coastal erosion and mass loss of species? Ecologists are already saying that they fear two rare species (found only on Kangaroo Island, to the south of Australia), may have been wiped out in the recent fires.  These include a small mouse-like marsupial, called a dunnart, and glossy black cockatoos. See:

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/empowering-the-planet/australia-wildfires-entire-species-may-have-been-wiped-out-by-inferno-conservationists-say/ar-BBYDoQk?ocid=spartandhp

dunnart2

The endangered marsupial: Kangaroo Island Dunnart

See also: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/04/ecologists-warn-silent-death-australia-bushfires-endangered-species-extinction

An article in Nature, by an Australian ecologist Michael Clarke, describes the aftermath of such terrible fires.  He says,

“It is deathly silent when you go into a forest after a fire. Apart from the ‘undertakers’ — the carrion eaters like currawongs, ravens and shrike-thrushes — picking off the dead bodies, there’s nothing much left in the forest. It’s a chilling experience.

For survivors, it’s a perilous existence in the months that follow. Any animal that manages to make it through the fire uninjured faces three major challenges. One is finding shelter from climatic extremes — places they can hide from bad weather, like a hollow tree or a hole in the ground. The second is the risk of starvation. And third, they’ve got to avoid predators like feral cats and foxes. They’re exposed; there’s nowhere to hide in a barren landscape.

Even if an animal makes it to an unburnt patch, the density of organisms trying to eke out a living will be way beyond the area’s carrying capacity. After fires in 2007, one unburnt patch I visited in the Mallee [a region in the far north of Victoria] was literally crawling with birds, all chasing one another, trying to work out who owned the last little bit of turf. It was clearly insufficient to sustain them all.

Animals like koalas that live above ground in small, isolated populations and that have a limited capacity to flee or discover unburnt patches of forest are in all sorts of trouble. During past fires, we’ve seen some really surprising creative behaviours, like lyrebirds and wallabies going down wombat burrows to escape fire. But a large majority of animals are simply incinerated. Even really big, fast-flying birds like falcons and crimson rosellas can succumb to fire.

Some animals are more resilient to fire than others. The best adapted are those that can get underground. Termite colonies happily hum along underneath these all-consuming fires. Burrow-dwelling lizards are similar.”

See: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00043-2

michaelClarke

Professor Michael Clarke



 

Australia is not alone in facing wildfires. In 2018, a similar thing happened in California.  The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever recorded in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha), the largest area of burned acreage recorded in a fire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), as of December 21. Through to the end of August 2018, Cal Fire alone spent $432 million on operations. As of May 2019, insurance claims related to this fire season had reached $12 billion, most related to the Camp Fire, in Butte County (see Wikipedia). And wildfires happened in Europe too.

In India, from June to September 2019, the country received the highest amount of monsoonal rain in the past 25 years. According to the India Meteorological Department, those rains are not expected to retreat until at least October 10th, which would be the latest withdrawal of the monsoon in the country’s recorded history.

indian monsoon floods

2019 monsoon flooding in India

According to Wikepedia, climate change in China is having major effects on the economy, society and the environment. The energy structure and human activities caused global warming and climate change, and China suffered from negative effects of global warming in agriculture, forestry and water resources.

Beijing-Smog

Photograph taken in Beijing, China, where smog pollution reaches 24 times the WHO recommended safe level and children are kept from attending school as a result.

I have chosen to mention these three countries – Australia, India and China – because they were exempted from the UN Kyoto Protocol agreement, because at that time, they pleaded that they were only just beginning to industrialise and needed to be given a chance to compete with industrialised countries. This chance was given and, now, they have become amongst the highest polluting countries in the world, with China in the lead, despite its intentions to tackle climate change.  Ironic, isn’t it?

It’s easy to criticise with hindsight but I believe the UNFCCC should have had the confidence to stand firm over the Kyoto Protocol.  Because of this, many countries (including the USA – another high polluter) did not ratify it.

I came across an interesting graph a few months ago, which shows that carbon emissions have continued to climb, despite UN efforts and agreements: Rio, Kyoto and Paris and beyond.  The dates of these initiatives is marked on an ever-upwardly climbing graph of global carbon emissions.

cemissionsgraph

As I’ve watched the events of this summer unfolding, I’ve found myself wondering whether the Earth system has now breached a tipping point, an irreversible shift in the stability of the planetary system.

There may now be so much heat trapped in the system that we may have already triggered a domino effect that could unleash a cascade of abrupt changes that will continue to play out in the years and decades to come.

Rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it.

 

However, I believe that global warming and climate change will have multiple effects across the world; some of it will be related to food scarcity but the other effects will be more random: fires, floods, hurricanes, heat stroke, coastal erosion and the loss of islands, as well as land in low-lying countries. And, of course, the disappearance of many iconic species of wildlife. And, as a Biologist and an animal lover, I feel enormous grief over this devastating loss – and I know that I am not the only one.

Unless huge co-operative efforts are made to limit the burning of fossil fuels, the future looks bleak for all of us, including some of the wonderful and unique species with whom we share this planet. If we are seeing these effects with just 1 degree of global warming, what will it be like at 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees or even higher?  Three degrees and above are predicted if carbon emissions do not start to fall in the very near future.



 


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The Truth about Heatwaves: 3

In three previous blogs, I have discussed heatwaves and their effects on land, over the oceans and their effects on human survivability.

In this (4th) blog, I am going to provide more data linking heatwaves in the UK with a spike in the number of deaths, especially in the elderly, the young and those with specific health issues – vulnerable groups.

After the 2018 heatwave, The Guardian, published an analysis of this, based on official statistics; it can be seen at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/03/deaths-rose-650-above-average-during-uk-heatwave-with-older-people-most-at-risk

The following includes extracts from The Guardian article:


Nearly 700 more deaths than average were recorded during the 15-day peak of the heatwave in June and July 2018 in England and Wales.

The height of the heatwave was from 25 June to 9 July, according to the Met Office, a run of 15 consecutive days with temperatures above 28C. The deaths registered during the weeks covering this period were 663 higher than the average for the same weeks over the previous five years, a Guardian analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics shows.

beachJuly 2018

ONS analysis for previous years indicate hundreds of additional deaths were associated with brief periods of heatwave conditions in July 2016 and June 2017. The full toll of the 2018 heatwave could reach 1,000, according to one prediction.

“While working in A&E this summer, I saw patients presenting with heatstroke and other conditions that were probably exacerbated by the hot weather, and this obviously places an additional strain on our already struggling health services,” she said.

Dehydration can lead to many issues, from dizziness and falls, to an increased risk of infections, heart attacks and strokes. The 2018 heatwave showed that hospitals and care homes must be made ready to cope with high temperatures.



Another article, published by the London School of Economics and Political Science last year, stated that people are dying of ignorance:

Hundreds are dying from ignorance of rising heatwave risks

The article states that many of these deaths could have been prevented if Government Departments and agencies had listened to the advice of experts and improved the shockingly poor flow of information to the public about the rising risk of heatwaves due to climate change.

There is evidence that many people perish each summer in the UK because they do not understand that the frequency of heatwave conditions are increasing.

The full death toll from summer 2018’s hot weather will not be known for a some time, but is likely to exceed 1000 based on what has happened in previous years.

It is a public health emergency about which nobody is talking. If more than 1000 people were killed in flooding, there would rightly be an outcry, particularly if many of the deaths could have been avoided.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine identified older people as being particularly vulnerable but also concluded that more people suffer in Greater London, South-East and East England. These are the hottest parts of the UK, and have been experiencing significant amounts of warming over the past few decades.

An assessment in 2014 found statistically significant increases in daily maximum, minimum and mean air temperatures between 1910 and 2011, with “the rate of change increasing from the north and west to the south and east”.

Public Health England published in 2015 an annual heatwave plan (PDF) and jointly operates, with the Met Office, the ‘Heat-Health Watch’ which issues warnings ahead of heatwave conditions occurring. However, the Met Office fails frequently to tell the public that climate change is increasing the risk of heatwaves in the UK.




Another report about the UK heatwave in 2019 had similar findings. It was from the Office for National Statistics (ONS):

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/articles/dosummerheatwavesleadtoanincreaseindeaths/2019-10-07

The number of deaths spiked on the hottest day of the summer, provisional official data shows.

There were 1,473 deaths on July 25 registered in England and Wales, rising from about 1,100-1,200 deaths per day around the same time, according to figures from the ONS.

July 25 saw temperatures reach 38.7C in Cambridge, breaking the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK.

The ONS was looking at whether “killer heatwave” news headlines are backed up by the data in a release called ‘Do summer heatwaves lead to an increase in deaths?’

The stats body cautioned that the May to August 2019 data is “highly provisional” due to the amount of time it can take for deaths to be registered, meaning the recorded number of deaths per day is likely to increase as more deaths are registered.

HEALTH Heatwave

While comparisons with previous years cannot yet be made using the recent summer’s data, the statisticians compared the number of deaths per day in summer 2018 with the five-year average (2013-18).

The ONS said: “The comparatively high number of deaths occur mainly on days that are defined as heatwaves by Public Health England (PHE) in their deaths relating to heatwaves report.”

These spikes tended to be followed by periods of lower-than-average deaths, the ONS said.

The report went on: “This means that at a daily level, extreme heat seems to have an impact on the number of deaths, but across the summer period as a whole the number of deaths is similar to previous years.

“This could be because the most vulnerable people, for example, those with pre-existing respiratory or cerebrovascular diseases are more susceptible to death during heatwaves.”

Even when taking into account the heatwaves, the effects of winter on mortality are consistently greater than summer, the report added.



Another Public Health England (PHE) report analysed the number of deaths during the 2016 heatwave.  It found an excess of 908 deaths during the heatwave periods, when the Met Office had issued heatwave alerts.  See:

Public Health England, “PHE Heatwave Mortality Monitoring: Summer 2016”, June 2018. Available: https://assets.publishing.service.
gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/714933/PHE_heatwave_mortality_monitoring_report_2016.pdf

The executive summary to the document is as follows:

Executive summary:

“Heatwaves are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change. The health impacts of these events can be significant, particularly for vulnerable populations when excess mortality can occur. England experienced several heatwaves in the summer 2016. This report summarises the excess deaths observed throughout the heatwaves of summer 2016.

The summer of 2016 saw 3 Level 3 heatwave alerts issued by the Met Office. Excess
daily mortality was estimated using baseline death registration data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The first heatwave occurred from 18 July to 22 July 2016, where there were an estimated 612 excess deaths observed above baseline in the 65+ year olds. The second heatwave occurred between 22 August to 26 August 2016, where there were an estimated 296 excess deaths observed above baseline amongst 65+ year olds. The third and final heatwave of the summer 2016 occurred between 12 September and 17 September 2016, where there were no significant excess deaths observed. This resulted in a total estimate of 908 excess deaths over the summer 2016
period.”

The Conclusion to the report is as follows:

Conclusions
England observed 3 heatwave periods in 2016, with significant excess mortality impact in the >65 year olds decreasing in size and geographical extent with each heatwave across the summer. No significant impact was seen in the <65 year olds and the impact on mortality of 908 excess deaths was less than seen in 2006 (2,323 deaths) and 2003 (2,234 deaths). The UK has had a heatwave plan since 2004, the importance of which continues to be highlighted year on year.”



8th May 2020

Another Guardian report has reported on a new study, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), in which they conclude that, within 50 years, one billion people will live in insufferable heat due to global warming.  This billion people will either be displaced or forced to endure insufferable heat for every additional 1 degree C rise in the global temperature.

The authors of the study were really shocked by the findings, as they had not expected the human species to be so vulnerable.  The Guardian article and the PNAS reference are as follows:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/05/one-billion-people-will-live-in-insufferable-heat-within-50-years-study?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMjAwNTA2&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=greenlight_email&utm_campaign=GreenLight

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/04/28/1910114117

 



An article, published on May 17th 2020 in The Conversation discusses the concept of climate sensitivity, which is defined as “the relationship between changes in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and warming”.

They discuss the use of mathematical climate models to predict the amount of global warming in the future. If climate sensitivity is introduced to these models, there is a surprising and unexpected surge in temperatures in the future.  For example, they predict a rise of 7 degrees C in Australia by 2100, if emissions continue to rise unabated.

These higher temperature changes are not currently presented in the national climate projections, as they didn’t occur under the previous generation of models and emission scenarios.

Higher climate sensitivity means increases to heat extremes. It would mean we’ll see greater flow-on changes to other climate features, such as extreme rainfall, sea level rise, extreme heatwaves and more, reducing our ability to adapt. The two graphs below show temperature changes in the future in both high emission scenarios and a very low emissions scenario.

 

https://theconversation.com/just-how-hot-will-it-get-this-century-latest-climate-models-suggest-it-could-be-worse-than-we-thought-137281



There is also a report in the Washington Post about a heatwave in Siberia (May 2020).

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/environment/parts-of-siberia-are-hotter-than-washington-with-temperatures-nearly-40-degrees-above-average/ar-BB14tXLJ?ocid=spartandhp

The warmth in Siberia is already having repercussions on Arctic ecosystems, with unusually large Siberian wildfires already burning this year, snow cover plummeting unusually quickly and sea ice cover in areas such as the Kara Sea, which lies to the north of Central Siberia, at a record low for the date, having begun its seasonal melt more than a month earlier than is typical.

In recent years, scientists have raised growing concerns about the stability of Arctic permafrost, including stretches of permanently frozen soil located throughout Siberia. When the permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and other planet-warming greenhouse gases that had been locked away for centuries is freed up, constituting an accelerant to global warming.

a close up of food: January to April temperature departures from average, showing the most significant temperature anomalies across Russia, including Siberia. (Berkeley Earth)

The temperature departures from average in Siberia this year are some of the highest of any area on Earth. Since January, the region has been running at least 3 degrees Celsius above the long-term average, according to a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.



 


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Heatwaves, fires, floods, reef pollution and wildlife deaths affecting Australia

In an earlier blog, I have described the prolonged extreme heat that affected Australia in January.  It was followed by devastating bush fires.  In February, unprecedented floods hit Northern Queensland as double the annual rainfall fell in just 12 days, causing rivers and creeks to burst their banks.  500,000 cattle were drowned as well as much of the state’s native wildlife.  Cattle that did survive were in a poor state after being stranded in deep water and mud for days.

cattle

Queensland cattle drowned by the flood waters

Following the floods, a massive plume of polluted floodwater has hit the Great Barrier Reef, sparking a fresh threat to its fragile ecosystem. The muddy plume, which likely included nitrogen and pesticide chemicals, spread 60 kms to the outer reefs and was so large it could be seen from space. The satellite image below from the recent Queensland floods shows how far polluted runoff can reach into Reef waters.

gbrfloodpollution

Satellite image showing river flood pollution along the Australian coast south of Townsville, Queensland

Sediment and fertiliser runoff from farms is a major threat to inshore coral reefs and seagrass meadows of the Great Barrier Reef. This pollution can lead to devastating impacts to corals and seagrass ecosystems, critical habitats for threatened dugongs, turtles and many juvenile commercial fish species.

The Reef life is also being weakened by sediment and chemical pollution – right when it needs to be strong in the face of rapidly heating oceans. Its corals are still recovering from the devastating back to back bleaching events that occurred from rising ocean temperatures in 2016 and 2017. Improving the quality of water flowing from the Reef coast into the sea is critical to reduce the pressure and support its recovery.

Nutrients from fertiliser runoff are driving massive outbreaks of coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns Starfish. These starfish devour vast amounts of coral on the Reef, threatening the recovery of bleached corals.  So, the Great Barrier Reef is at risk from a number of sources.

One of the corollaries to climate change is extreme weather events and Australia has had its fair share of them this year (2019).



And, from the Times, 4th March 2019, the following:

“Residents in part of the outback have been ordered to limit their showers to three minutes a day and banned from using a washing machine more than twice a week amid the worst drought since 1900.

The seven-year lack of rain has prompted convoys of lorries to take bottled water to small towns across far-western New South Wales. Their water supply, from stagnant ponds in drying rivers, has become undrinkable.

“There’s an acute water shortage in a substantial amount of western New South Wales,” James McTavish, the state’s town water supply co-ordinator, said.”



Guardian 7th March 2019:

Ringtail possums in Victoria are dying of heat stress.  Rescuers found 127 of them at Somers Beach on the Mornington Peninsula, dying or already dead.  It is thought that the possums had become so dehydrated and desperate they had left an area of scrub and come down to the beach and attempted to drink salt water.  Some had fallen out of trees.

possums

Story at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/07/falling-out-of-trees-dozens-of-dead-possums-blamed-on-extreme-heat-stress?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTkwMzA4&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email



April 15th 2019

A Nature study reported on CNN website found that successive ocean heat waves are not only damaging Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, they are compromising its ability to recover, raising the risk of “widespread ecological collapse”.

The 2,300-kilometer-long (1,500 mile) reef has endured multiple large-scale “bleaching” events caused by above-average water temperatures in the last two decades, including back-to-back occurrences in 2016 and 2017.
The new study, released in the journal Nature, examined the number of adult corals which survived these two events and how many new corals they created to replenish the reef in 2018.
The answer was as bleak as it was stark: “Dead corals don’t make babies,” the study’s lead author, Terry Hughes, said in a press release.
Scientists working on the study found the loss in adult corals caused a “crash in coral replenishment” on the reef, as heat stresses brought about by warming ocean temperatures impacted the ability of coral to heal.
Coral
“The number of new corals settling on the Great Barrier Reef declined by 89% following the unprecedented loss of adult corals from global warming in 2016 and 2017,” said Hughes.
Scientists have long warned of the impact on global warming on the reef, the world’s largest reef system and the only living organism that can be seen from space. The reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, supports thousands of species — fish, turtles, sharks and marine mammals.
In the introduction to the report, the authors note that environmental changes caused by climate change, “are increasingly challenging the capacity of ecosystems to absorb recurrent shocks and reassemble afterwards, escalating the risk of widespread ecological collapse of (the) current ecosystem.”
The study found that one of the most dominant species of coral, Acropora, which provides “most of the three-dimensional coral habitat that support thousands of other species,” according to co-author Andrew Baird, had suffered a 93% drop in replenishment following the back-to-back bleaching events of 2016 and 2017.


May 2019:

Australia re-elects the climate change denier, Scott Morrison.

Battered by extended droughts, damaging floods, and more bushfires, Australian voters had been expected to hand a mandate to the Labour party to pursue its ambitious targets for renewable energy and carbon emissions cuts.

Instead, they rejected the opposition’s plans for tax reform and climate action, re-electing a Liberal-led center-right coalition headed by Morrison. The same coalition government last year scrapped a bipartisan national energy plan and dumped then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull because he was viewed as anti-coal.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison once brandished a lump of coal in parliament, crying, “This is coal – don’t be afraid!”

It would appear that the Australian voting public were enticed to vote this way in order to reduce energy prices.



July 31st 2019:

Another report from Nature gives the alarming news that the climate crisis is already causing deaths and childhood stunting. The Nature report from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, is reviewed in The Guardian and msn.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/climate-crisis-already-causing-deaths-and-childhood-stunting-report-reveals/ar-AAF76ZS?ocid=spartandhp

The report “From Townsville to Tuvalu” pulled together scientific research from roughly 120 peer-reviewed journal articles to paint a picture of the health-related impacts of the climate emergency in Australia and the Pacific region. It stated, “Climate change is “absolutely” already causing deaths” and also predicts climate-related stunting, malnutrition and lower IQ in children within the coming decades.

It pointed to a 2018 report from the World Health Organisation, which predicted that between 2030 and 2050, global warming would cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from heat stress, malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. But Misha Coleman, one of the report’s authors, stressed that deaths were already occurring:

“During the Black Saturday fires (in Victoria in 2009) for example, we know that people were directly killed by the fires, but there were nearly 400 additional deaths in those hot days from heat stress and heatstroke.”

The report found that, as well as deaths caused directly by severe weather events such as hurricanes, flooding and fires, the “more deep and insidious impact” came from the secondary impacts of climate change.

The report warned that rising global temperatures would expand the habitat of mosquitos, exposing more people to diseases including dengue, chikungunya and zika, and would cause other diseases to spread into Australia, including Nipah virus, which is spread by bats, and Q fever, which is already prevalent around Townsville.

John Thwaites, Chair of the Sustainable Development Institute of Monash University. said:

“Q fever is something that is carried by a lot of wild and domesticated animals. “As climate change degrades their habitat through fires and drought, these animals go looking for green grass and fresh water [and] they find themselves on golf courses and on retirees’ two-acre blocks.”

Coleman said the problem comes when infected animals defecate on lawns and the poo is then run over by humans with lawnmowers. “It becomes airborne and a highly transmissible toxin, that’s why it’s being described, even by the Lancet medical journal, as a bioweapon in our own backyard.”

Climate change is expected to pose particularly stark issues for childhood development, with the report citing research that shows children born to women who were pregnant while they experienced floods in Brisbane in 2011 had lower cognitive capacity (equivalent to at least 14 points on an IQ scale), smaller vocabularies and less imaginative play at the age of two.

The decreased nutritional value of staple crops as a result of higher CO2 concentration was also expected to cause stunting, anaemia and malnutrition in children, within 10 to 20 years.

See also:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/31/climate-crisis-already-causing-deaths-and-childhood-stunting-report-reveals

https://www.nature.com/nclimate/articles?type=news-and-views

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32610-2/fulltext

https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-climate-change-affecting-australia

The final article in the link above describes specifically the reality of climate change effects for Australia. It is worth reading. It shows, by means of a graph, the consequences of an upward shift in average temperature for the region:

heatw3



December 2019:

Extensive bush fires have hit Australia earlier this year, affecting much of Queensland and especially New South Wales, where the fires have been burning out of control, destroying property, as well as wildlife.  Smoke pollution has also hung over Sydney for days on end.

One big concern in all of this is the loss of many of the native koalas, killed in the fires.  Concern was already being expressed about the future viability of this species, due to habitat loss.  Now, heartbreaking film of burnt and dying koalas is being shared globally.

koala2

Reports state that:

Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in a wildfire-ravaged area north of Sydney, further diminishing Australia’s iconic marsupial, while the fire danger accelerated on Saturday in the country’s east as temperatures soared.

The mid-north coast of New South Wales was home to up to 28,000 koalas, but wildfires in the area in recent months have significantly reduced their population.

Koalas are native to Australia and are one of the country’s most beloved animals, but they have been under threat due to a loss of habitat.

Environment minister Sussan Ley said: “Up to 30% of their habitat has been destroyed.

“We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made.”

Images shared of koalas drinking water after being rescued from the wildfires have gone viral on social media in recent days.

koala

Ms Ley said: “I get mail from all around the world from people absolutely moved and amazed by our wildlife volunteer response and also by the habits of these curious creatures.”

About 12.35 million acres of land have burned nationwide during the current wildfire crisis, with nine people killed and more than 1,000 homes destroyed.

Fire danger in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory was upgraded to severe on Saturday, as high temperatures built up over the region.

Sydney’s western suburbs reached 41C, while the inner city is expected to hit 31C on Sunday before reaching 35C on Tuesday.”



 


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2018 Lancet Report on Health and Climate Change

This is a second report, published in the Lancet; the first, published in 2015, was summarised in Chapter 1 (page 26) of my book.

This new report concentrates on predicting how climate extremes may impact on human health; for example, heat waves, changes in water (brackish) due to sea level rise, causing increases in disease-bearing insects, such as mosquitos, drought, reduced crop yields, causing malnutrition, a waning workforce. as outdoor workers cannot work for long hours in hot and humid conditions.  A great concern is about the effects of heat waves on the elderly (65 years+) and whether there will be a ‘systemic failure’ of hospitals in coping with adverse weather conditions.

The full report may be found at:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32594-7/fulltext

and an excellent summary from Carbon Brief at:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/the-lancet-extreme-heat-threatens-systemic-failure-of-hospitals

The following image gives a summary of the issues and is adapted from a diagram issued by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council:

http://www.yvsc.org/changing-climate-impacts-human-health/

health and climate change

A youtube video summarising the Lancet report is at:


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Wake-up Calls on Climate Change

One of the reviewers of my book described it as a Wake Up Call  and this phrase is being used more and more in relation to climate change, especially as people have experienced extremes of weather in the last two years.

Now, the Guardian has published an article about the things that their readers have described as Wake Up Calls:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/21/the-heatwave-was-a-wake-up-call-readers-on-a-year-of-climate-change-anxiety?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTgxMjIx&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

They include the following:

  1. The 2018 heatwave.
  2. Wildfires in California.
  3. The IPCC report, saying we have 12 years.
  4. The launch of Extinction Rebellion.
  5. Extreme heatwaves harming the poorest people.
  6. The’Beast from the East’.
  7. ‘The changing political landscape prompted me’

 

wildfires


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FT: Shinzo Abe has called on all countries to join Japan to “act now to save our planet”

This piece is copied with acknowledgments to both the Financial Times, for whom Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe wrote a recent groundbreaking article, and to the editor (BP) of

https://preparingforgovernment.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/ft-shinzo-abe-has-called-on-all-countries-to-join-japan-and-act-now-to-save-our-planet/

for giving me permission to use her piece taken from the FT article, to which she added illustrations and emphases:

In the Financial Times, he writes:

The summer of 2018 broke meteorological records, devastating entire regions along the coast of western Japan. There were unprecedented levels of rain, heat, landslides and hurricanes. 

The country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has called on all countries to join Japan and act now to save our planet. In the Financie writes:

This summer western Japan was battered by the strongest typhoon to hit the country in 25 years. Unprecedented torrential rain and landslides ravaged the residents of western Japan this summer, killing more than 200 people, and ruining hundreds of thousands of livelihoods.

Roads are cut off by a mudslide at a section of the Kyushu Expressway in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture (all pictures and emphases added)

Meanwhile, severe scorching heatwaves struck the country and resulted in approximately 160 deaths. Fierce heat also gripped North America and Europe, and hurricanes and typhoons hit the US and Philippines.

Global warming increases carbon dioxide and acidifies the ocean, damaging its ability to self-purify. Even worse, proliferating marine plastic pollution threatens marine ecosystems and eventually, our own health.

The international community has taken steps to address climate change with forward-looking and long-term goals. An agreement was adopted in Paris in 2015 with the participation of all major economies including China and India. The following year, I went a step further at the Ise-Shima summit in Japan, as G7 members committed to devising long-term strategies.

Climate change can be life-threatening to all generations, be it the elderly or the young and in developed and developing countries alike.

Rescuers help local residents to evacuate in the town of Saka, Hiroshima Prefecture

The problem is exacerbating more quickly than we expected. We must take more robust actions. And swiftly.

The way forward is clear. We must save both the green of the earth and the blue of its oceans.

Our goals must be firmly based on the latest scientific knowledge. As we learn more, through the work and expertise of the scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the entire world should take appropriate measures accordingly.

All countries must engage with the same level of urgency. Some are still increasing greenhouse gas emissions and emit more than 2bn tonnes annually according to the International Energy Agency. All countries must put promises into practice. Developed countries should provide support to developing countries for fulfilling their obligations.

As part of their long-term strategies, governments should promote innovation to drive new growth and spread the net widely for new ideas.

No alternatives should be excluded. Japan has goals such as creating ultra-high-capacity storage batteries, further decentralising and digitising automated energy control systems, and evolving into a hydrogen-based energy society. Countries should also rank the competitiveness of a company based on its development and dissemination of future-oriented technologies. This would encourage companies to invest for the long term.

Momentum is already growing in the private sector. The number of companies engaging in environment, social and governance-focused investment or issuing green bonds is rising dramatically. Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund is one of them. Investors now require businesses to analyse environmental challenges and disclose potential risks as well as opportunities.

We must also focus on reducing emissions from infrastructure.

In Japan, our Shinkansen high-speed rail network prevents congestion and boosts the overall fuel efficiency of transportation nationwide. We also have set our carmakers a goal to cut the greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle they produce by 80 per cent by 2050 so as to realise “Well-to-Wheel Zero Emission”.

We must simultaneously boost economic growth and reduce the use of fossil fuels. That means cutting the costs and improving the reliability of renewable energy. In Japan, the volume of electricity generated from renewable sources has increased 2.5-fold in the past four years. Japan will host the world’s first ministerial meeting focused on hydrogen energy. We cannot overlook safe nuclear power generation and controls on emissions of methane and hydrofluorocarbons.

Manufacturers with large-scale greenhouse gas emissions should be encouraged to update their production methods. Countries should stop excessive steel production, which causes massive greenhouse gas emissions and creates imbalances in markets.

Finally we should tap data processing and communications advances to speed up the innovation cycle. Investing in energy transition and the sharing economy will ensure economic growth and dramatically reduce greenhouse gases.

Addressing climate change, marine pollution, and disaster risk reduction are critical pillars for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Japan will preside over the G20 next year and focus on accelerating the virtuous cycle of environmental protection and economic growth.

When the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development is held in Japan, we will extend support to African countries. We invite the rest of the world to join us in tackling this tough challenge.'”


 

PLEASE NOTE THAT IN ANOTHER BLOG ON THIS WEBSITE, “20 Countries Most At Risk From Sea Level Rise”, Japan features as having the 3rd highest risk in the world of exposure to sea level rise, with 10% of their population exposed by it.

 


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The truth about heatwaves: 1

Summer 2018:

Here in the UK we have been experiencing an oppressive heatwave for the last 7 weeks, with temperatures reaching into the 30s and staying there for several days on end, with up to 36°C predicted for this week. Yet, back in April, we were rueing the fact that the winter seemed to be going on for ever and were fed up with rain, more rain and yet more rain.  And perhaps we should not have criticised so much rain, as it filled up the UK reservoirs, enabling the country to survive this long dry spell.

These extremes of weather are all part of a trend that we must expect to see more  and more, as climate change bites deep into our world. Unpredictable and more extreme weather patterns.

Yet, as bad as temperatures have been in the UK, we are not the only ones experiencing extreme weather events. It would appear that much of northern Europe has been experiencing similar high temperatures. A recent article in The Times, “A worrying trend of heatwaves” by Paul Simon (20th July 2018) gives further details.

Yes, records are not just being broken in the UK and Europe but across the world. At Quriyat on the coast of Oman the world’s hottest ever night on record was measured, with an overnight lowest temperature of 42.6°C on June 25.

The highest reliable temperature in Africa was recorded at 51.3°C in Algeria on July 5th. Many countries in Europe have also had their warmest average April and May on record, and Norway set a national high temperature record of 33.5°C  and Finland hit 33.4°C.  Temperatures in the Arctic circle have also reached 30°C.

heatwave

New Zealand, in the southern hemisphere, has its summer whilst we are in winter and, last December to January was the hottest summer ever recorded.

Other parts of the world, which are usually pretty sultry, are also suffering:

Taiwan: highest recorded temperature of 40.3°C on July 10;

United Arab Emirates: 51.4°C on July 10;

Pakistan: highest temperature for April recorded at 50.2°C.

Japan: highest ever recorded temperature of 41.1°C in Kumagaya, as the country struggles to recover from its worst flooding and landslide disasters for years.

Heatwaves are becoming more extreme and more frequent.

A recent piece on the Quartz website reiterates much of these findings:

https://qz.com/email/daily-brief/1342735/

Perhaps people (climate change deniers) can shrug their shoulders and explain it away as an interesting phenomenon but nothing significant.  But it would appear that, in addition to record daytime temperatures, there is also a significant change in night time temperatures too. Makkaur in Norway has had a record-breaking overnight temperature of 25.2°C on 18th July.  According to an article in the International Journal of Climatology (cited in The Times piece), temperatures during the night are increasing faster than those in the day, so there is little respite for anybody from the oppressive daytime heat.

Cities tend to suffer the most, as buildings retain the heat longer.

Farming in the UK is also being affected: livestock are now being fed winter feed, as summer grass has withered away; reservoirs for watering vegetables are running dry and crops such as spring barley and sugar beet are being hit.

Hospitals without air conditioning are becoming extremely hot, affecting nurses and patients alike (nurses are not allowed to carry water bottles).  In one Hampshire hospital, the extreme heat set off the fire alarm.


Another report from Unearthed describes how heat waves and record temperatures are occurring across the northern hemisphere.  In Quebec, Canada, 34 deaths have been attributed to a heat wave.  Record temperatures have been recorded too in Northern Siberia.


And, accompanying heat waves of course, there are very often wild fires or bush fires burning out of control – and probably adding to the overall effect of global warming. Damaging homes and property, as well as killing people and many of the endangered species that we care about.

file-20171214-27555-1noxo9d

In the UK, as well as in other countries, there have been a series of wildfires, which have been difficult to bring under control. And today, as I write, we have heard about devastating fires in Greece, with homes destroyed, 60+ killed or missing and people fleeing into the sea to get away from the flames. Sweden has also experienced 50 forest fires burning in mid-July.

And last year, Portugal, Canada and Australia, among others, also experienced wild fires out of control.


See also, an earlier blog and heat waves and human survivability. This cites a Lancet article about how high temperatures can reach before people start dying – this depends on the level of humidity.


 

2nd August 2018

Today, I have received details of two articles, which both state that there is now no doubt that human-induced climate change is responsible for the current heat waves.

The first is from The Guardian, with the headline, “Extreme global weather is ‘the face of climate change’ says leading scientist.” It cites the comments by an eminent climate scientist, Prof Michael Mann, who “declares that the impacts of global warming are now ‘playing out in real-time’“.  See:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/27/extreme-global-weather-climate-change-michael-mann?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=282539&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631

“Other senior scientists agree the link is clear. Serious climate change is “unfolding before our eyes”, said Prof Rowan Sutton, at the University of Reading. “No one should be in the slightest surprised that we are seeing very serious heatwaves and associated impacts in many parts of the world.”

The second article is from Media Lens today and is a compilation of articles from various places.  It is entitled “World on Fire: Climate Breakdown” and starts with the following paragraph:

“What will it take for society to make the deep-rooted changes required to prevent the terrifying and awesome threat of climate breakdown? This summer’s extreme weather events are simply a prelude to a rising tide of chaos that will be punctuated by cataclysmic individual events – floods, heatwaves, superstorms – of increasing severity and frequency. How long before people demand radical action from governments? Or, and this is what is really needed, how long until citizens remove corporate-captured governments from power and introduce genuine democracy?”

http://medialens.org/index.php?option=com_acymailing&ctrl=archive&task=view&mailid=498&key=3d627a0db9defa2572b31cb827097147&subid=9459-27247f5ad5910317f882bc7ac4e817e1&tmpl=component

The article gives details of the extreme temperatures recorded across the globe this summer but then gives an analysis of some of the things still being said by a climate-sceptic press, when reporting on the current heat wave: the Daily Mail; the Sun and even the BBC.  All are failing to properly acknowledge that it is caused by climate change.

The Media Lens writer does not mince any words.


 

 


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The effects of heat waves on human survivability

An article in the New Scientist (No.3161) by John Pickrell, entitled “Too hot to handle”, discusses the increasing trend of heatwaves throughout the world, as a result of climate change.

heatwave

Pickrell starts by discussing Australia, which had a heatwave in January 2017, with the hottest ever recorded temperatures in Sydney and Brisbane (Sydney had over 47 degrees). Large parts of the country had temperatures over 40 degrees C for weeks on end, as well as bush fires.  Many of the unique species of wildlife common to Australia had to be rescued from fires and heat, many of them suffering from heat exhaustion, burns, dehydration and stress.

koala

kangaroo

 

Temperatures of 50 degrees C are predicted by 2040 for Australia.

Pickrell then goes on to cite papers, which give statistics about fatalities during heatwaves, one from The Lancet which covered research by 26 institutions (including the World Health Organization).

The 2003 heatwave in France killed 70,000 people – but it would appear that the level of humidity is the crucial factor, as high levels of water in the atmosphere can reduce the body’s ability to cool down through sweating.  To sweat effectively, you must maintain your blood volume, so dehydration can cause heat stress, followed by heat stroke, multiple organ failure and possible death.  The elderly and children are at greater risk of heat stroke, as well as those on medication or with heart disease.

I came across another wordpress website, which gives a useful chart showing temperature against relative humidity and which combinations are lethal:

See: https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/heatwaves/

and below for the table (with acknowledgments):

nclimate_heatwaves

The black crosses in the chart above show temperature and relative humidity during events that were lethal. The blue line shows the likely boundary between lethal and non-lethal events, and the red line is a 95% probability threshold.


According to The Lancet, global warming has reduced the workforce in India by 418,000.


An interesting map of the world is given in the New Scientist article to show the probability of deadly heatwaves for three global warming scenarios: 1.5 degrees C; 2 degrees C and 4 degrees C.  This can be seen by clicking on the link below:

heatwaves data

It shows that, even with an increase in global temperature of 2 degrees, many parts of the world will become uninhabitable, through rising temperatures: North West Africa, much of the Middle East, parts of Central and South America, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and much of Australia.  At four degrees the situation is dire throughout much of the tropical world.

The New Scientist article concludes with a list of advice on how to keep cool.


 Another academic article on a similar subject has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA by Sherwood and Huber in 2010 (Vol 107, (21), 9552-5) entitled “An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress.”  This article has been summarised in the Science & Technology section of the The Observer (10th Sept. 2017).  This article gives a chart showing which species die at particular degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels.  Amphibians will be the first to go (at 0.6 degrees+), followed by penguins, due to loss of food sources, as the krill populations dwindle. At 1.6 degrees+, the wooded tundra is lost, along with its inhabitants, moose, lynx and brown bears, followed by large African mammals, such as elephants, then rain forest dwellers (orangutans, jaguars, sloths) at 2.6 degrees+.  At a warming of 4 degrees, 70% of species would be extinct, coral reefs dead and deserts would expand across the world. The fate of humankind would be dominated by mass migration, on a scale even larger than we see today, with water resources extremely limited, as we would have to abandon most of the Earth or live underground.  The authors predict that, by 2050, temperatures will be in a range that nobody has experienced before.

It is interesting to note that the Australian town of Coober Pedy, a major site for opal mining, has already built an underground town, including hotels, for those times in the year when it is already too hot to live above ground.


2nd August 2018

Since this post was first written, time has now moved on into 2018 with heatwaves across much of the northern hemisphere (see other posts on this site for details).  Even climate sceptics are now beginning to accept that climate change is with us, with the extremes of weather which accompany it.

A piece this week in The Guardian by David Carrington deals with the issue of human survivability during heat waves.  I quote a short passage from him, in which he summarises scientific work on the issue:

The new analysis assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, which is measured as the “wet bulb” temperature (WBT). Once the WBT reaches 35C, the air is so hot and humid that the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade die within six hours.

A WBT above 31C is classed by the US National Weather Service as “extreme danger”, with its warning stating: “If you don’t take precautions immediately, you may become seriously ill or even die.”

He then goes on to discuss which parts of the world are most at risk of high WBT temperatures.  This would appear to be the north China plain, with a population of 400 million people, most of them farmers.  The scientists who produced the data have predicted that by 2070 to 2100, this area of the world will become uninhabitable.  Other areas at risk are the Middle East, around the Gulf (particularly Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and the coastal cities of Iran) and parts of South Asia (around the Indus and Ganges valleys).

For the full Guardian article, see:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/31/chinas-most-populous-area-could-be-uninhabitable-by-end-of-century?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=282539&subid=2617869&CMP=EMCENVEML1631



July 2019

The UK has experienced another heatwave period this summer, with record temperatures being reached in a number of countries.  It was particularly humid in the UK, with weather forecasters predicting the humidity above 50%, a level which can prove fatal with temperatures above 25ºC, according to the graph shown above.

So its worth looking again at the relationship between WBT (wet bulb temperature) and death due to heat stress.  The following can be found in Wikipedia:

“Living organisms can survive only within a certain temperature range. When the ambient temperature is excessive, humans and many animals cool themselves below ambient by evaporative cooling (sweat in humans and horses, saliva and water in dogs and other mammals); this helps to prevent potentially fatal hyperthermia due to heat stress. The effectiveness of evaporative cooling depends upon humidity; wet-bulb temperature, or more complex calculated quantities such as Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) which also takes account of solar radiation, give a useful indication of the degree of heat stress, and are used by several agencies as the basis for heat stress prevention guidelines.

A sustained wet-bulb temperature exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) is likely to be fatal even to fit and healthy people, unclothed in the shade next to a fan; at this temperature our bodies switch from shedding heat to the environment, to gaining heat from it. Thus 35 °C (95 °F) is the threshold beyond which the body is no longer able to adequately cool itself. A study by NOAA from 2013 concluded that heat stress will reduce labour capacity considerably under current emissions scenarios.

A 2010 study concluded that under a worst-case scenario for global warming with temperatures 12 °C (22 °F) higher than 2007, the wet-bulb temperature limit for humans could be exceeded around much of the world in future centuries. A 2015 study concluded that parts of the globe could become uninhabitable. An example of the threshold at which the human body is no longer able to cool itself and begins to overheat is a humidity level of 50% and a high heat of 46 °C (115 °F), as this would indicate a wet-bulb temperature of 35 °C (95 °F).”