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article imageOp-Ed: Earth is on the threshold of becoming too hot for humans

By Karen Graham     Jun 5, 2020 in Environment
Last month was the hottest May on record worldwide, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service. Globally, May was 0.63 degrees Celsius warmer than the average of May between 1981 and 2010. Face it, folks - The Earth has reached its heat threshold.
Yes, the world has been focused on trying to stay alive during the coronavirus pandemic that has been going on for the past five months, and yes, CO2 emissions have been curtailed because so many people weren't driving their vehicles and businesses have laid-off employees.
However, anthropogenic - or human-caused global warming shows no signs of decline. Actually, it continues to get worse, and all the signs are there for everyone to see. When compared to pre-industrial levels, temperatures and the level of greenhouse gases today indicate that the world is creeping dangerously close to the temperature threshold set at the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Signatories of the historic Climate Agreement vowed to cap emissions to curb global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, but they are nowhere near on track to meet that goal. In other words, global temperatures must be kept from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, and we are already halfway there, and that is not good.
The work of saving Earth s climate does not end with the pact to curb carbon emissions which countri...
The work of saving Earth's climate does not end with the pact to curb carbon emissions which countries adopted in Paris.
Jerry Lampen, ANP/AFP
And if anyone thinks scientists are making climate studies and average temperatures up, just for the fun of it, here is a fact to digest - Siberia, a region of Russia that sits on permafrost, was 10 degrees warmer than average in May. Added to this - This past winter, Russia saw the hottest winter in the 140-year history of meteorological observations, reports CNN.
The Climate Envelope
Humans have inhabited this planet for about 10,000 years. And as a species, we have encountered a range of climate conditions. But the range of weather humans can encounter on Earth – the “climate envelope” – is shifting as the planet warms, according to Inverse.
This climate envelope, and our ability to regulate our temperature is what has made humans capable of dominating our planet. This is because we don't have a layer of fur, we walk upright, and we come equipped with a sweat-based cooling system, so we are well-designed to take the heat.
Thermometer with Fahrenheit and Celsius units.
Thermometer with Fahrenheit and Celsius units.
However, exceedingly hot weather is already limiting our ability to work as well as stay healthy. This is simply because our sweat-based cooling system has placed physiological boundaries on the level of heat and humidity we can stand.
Dry-bulb and wet-bulb temperatures
The temperature we see reported on weather forecasts is the "dry-bulb" temperature. Once that temperature rises above about 35°C (95°F), the body must rely on evaporating water - or sweating to cool off.
The "wet-bulb" temperature is a measure of the heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account: temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle, and cloud cover (solar radiation). This differs from what we know as the "heat index," which takes into consideration temperature and humidity and is calculated for shady areas.
In France  temperatures are expected to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius  prompting authorities t...
In France, temperatures are expected to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius, prompting authorities to activate a heatwave plan
Because the "wet-bulb" temperature measures the chilling effect from evaporation on a thermometer, it is normally much lower than the "dry-bulb" temperature. So why is the "wet-bulb" temperature so important?
Simply put, once the "wet-bulb" temperature crosses the 35°C mark, the air is so hot and humid that not even sweating can lower our body temperature, and this condition can easily lead to death. In fact, outside a steam room, very few people have ever encountered anything close to a "wet-bulb" temperature of 35°C.
The whole point is this - Once the planet sails past the 2°C warming limit set out in the Paris climate agreement in 2015, we will be entering uncharted territory. So we really need to take global warming seriously and try to preserve what we are familiar with, rather than risk what may be waiting in a very novel climate ahead.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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