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article imageOp-Ed: New study — Billions at risk from heatwaves

By Paul Wallis     Jun 19, 2017 in Environment
Sydney - Inhabitants of the tropics, Middle East and most Western nations are in for progressive murderous heatwaves. New studies by the University of Hawaii indicate a rolling incremental increase in severity of heatwaves worldwide.
The study doesn’t make for reassuring reading. Rather sadly, it’s also in line with the various studies showing that global warming will exponentially snowball, excuse the expression.
The study indicates that most of the world’s poorest, and most densely inhabited areas will suffer worst, and probably first. The tropics are always hot; add more heat, and it’s likely that these regions will become progressively hotter, to unsustainable temperatures.
The study includes a graphic indicating the high risk areas for future warming. It includes India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Middle East, and the east coast of China. That’s about a third of the world’s population.
The problem with predictions
The one common factor that predictions of climate change have had is constant underestimation. Trying to predict runaway climate change is hampered by:
Compound effects: Additional heat and melt compound temperature rises and play havoc with humidity levels.
Multiple centers of heating: Local effects tend to obscure global effects. Some regions, like India, have totally different climates, too, which adds seasonal variations and what’s called “disparate data” to the mix. Forming an accurate global picture is complicated by these factors.
Biological shifting factors: Changes in the environment are producing acidic oceans, movement of tropical species in to formerly colder waters, and these new environments generate their own macro-environmental effects. If ocean algae are affected by more tropical predators, what does it do to
Pollution: The bizarre cocktails of chemical pollution worldwide are an imponderable factor in heat conduction and progression of temperatures. Carbon pollution is the best known, but not the only factor in heating. The fact that all this pollution could be trapped by simply adding better filtration, of course, has never been addressed in any form.
Methane: It’s unclear whether the study factors in a true sleeping giant of global warming, the billions of tonnes of methane stored in permafrost and under the sea. Methane release from these sources could drastically increase global warming factors.
Deadly heatwaves becoming more frequent
Deadly heatwaves becoming more frequent
Soils: Heat destroys soil biota by drying out and heating soils. That means that the dynamics of growing food are severely affected. Major croplands, particularly high volume staples like rice and other grains, are extremely vulnerable to drying out and desertification. At some point, croplands will become non-viable. A country like India, for example, with fragile, long-suffering soils, could be at severe risk of total crop failure.
Carbon and water cycles: These are the major organic cycles which drive life on Earth. Add heat and too much carbon, dry up the water, and you have a truly deadly situation.
Forget 2100; the problems are happening now
If I have any criticism of this study, which deserves proper acknowledgement for defining high risk areas, it’s that any arbitrary date is unlikely to be realistic. 2100 is a time measure, not a cut-off date. Prior experience of predicted events, like increased weather severity and heat waves, indicates that these things happen on a progressive scale affecting larger areas. More heat exacerbates problems. The problem is likely to be worse than predictions on that basis.
A jump in global temperature of two degrees Celsius would double the severity of crop failures  wate...
A jump in global temperature of two degrees Celsius would double the severity of crop failures, water shortages and heatwaves in many regions compared to a rise of 1.5 C, according to a study released on April 21, 2016
Philippe Huguen, AFP/File
The first major heatwave in Europe killed 70,000 people in 2003. Europe, despite advanced technologies, was caught unprepared. Russia lost 10,000 people in a later heatwave.
How are the poor countries expected to deal with this approaching catastrophe? We could have major climate refugee movements, dwarfing the current volumes of refugee numbers. This would be an unmanageable humanitarian catastrophe, far beyond the resources of the rest of the world to cope with.
The heat waves happening right now in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere are happening at the very start of summer. There are months of summer to go. The potential economic costs of any major events during the hot months are incalculable.
Global warming is a crime against humanity. There is no other definition which fits the scale of this obscenity. 7.6 billion people are at risk for no good reason. My advice would be to reopen Nuremberg for another round of trials.
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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