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article imageOp-Ed: The other disaster — By 2070, big areas ‘unliveable’ due to heat

By Paul Wallis     May 5, 2020 in World
Sydney - Meanwhile, climate change just keeps rolling along. A new international study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that billions of people could be displaced by unbearable heat.
The findings of the study are grim enough for the dumbest climate skeptic. 30% of the world’s population are expected to experience unheard-of levels of heat above the baseline environmental comfort zone over 29C. These are Sahara-like temperatures, and the findings are unambiguous.
Massive displacement of people from high-temperature zones could put pressure on less hot zones. High population places like India, for example, will experience these Sahara temperatures routinely. Local food production could be expected to be seriously impacted, resulting in shortages.
One of the study’s lead authors, Wageningen University Prof Marten Scheffer, commented that this represents more climate change in 50 years than in the last 6,000. That’s roughly since the end of the last Ice Age.
Ecology, physics, costs, and stating the obvious
Even at 50% of the anticipated temperature rise, the physical effects of such heat are obvious. Heat affects water supply, crop growth, demands for energy, and literally reshapes real world ecologies and environments. The Sahara itself used to have a much milder climate. Under the sand are the remnants of human occupation which long ago became non-viable. Now, it’s the world’s biggest sand desert.
Heat has another effect. Massive increases in heat don’t “blow away”; they circulate. In Australia, we have “hot rocks” in the centre of the country under our prevailing westerly winds which deliver scorching temperatures to the east and south. The heat can persist for long periods, drying out the land, and increasing fire risk. The current joke is that 3 months of summer are OK, but 9 months, not OK.
The knock-on effect of the heat can be extreme. Our gruesome bushfires in 2019 were totally unheard-of. The fires have never before been so ferocious and so dangerous. We were breathing smoke for 4 months. The hotter environment also made a very serious drought, perhaps our worst, going on much longer and more destructive in costs and damage to agriculture. There were kids living on farms who barely ever saw the colour green outside their screens.
United States Drought Monitor
This is real. There’s nothing deniable about it.
This is all proven, documented, costed, fact. Ask any insurer, banker, food business, or agricultural company. Denial is quite simply not even an option. The world exists and what happens in it matters to the people living in it. All of this has already happened, and very similar events are continuing to happen around the world.
Germany is currently experiencing an unusual 3-year drought, capped off by reduced ice melt affecting the flow and volume of water in the Rhine. Poland and Vietnam are also experiencing droughts, not exactly their usual weather. The big recent drought in the United States is showing nasty signs of coming back for an encore performance called a “mega drought”.
There’s nothing to deny economically, either. These massive hits to the environment cost billions, wherever they occur. Food prices spike until the environmental conditions change. Demands for water alone put massive pressure on whatever types of water storage are still functional in these conditions.
If the study is right, the fan is about to be hit very hard indeed.
If this study is right, the massive dislocation to the food supply, population movements, and related hits to global capacity to manage basics will be hideous. At-risk countries identified by the study include India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, and Thailand, among others.
That’s 1.2 billion people at risk. The usual pattern with climate changes is that these hostile environmental conditions will probably increase over time, affecting more people.
You’ll note another pattern here, and it’s hardly reassuring. The countries to be affected are all equatorial countries. This is a disaster which is likely to quite literally heat up the entire equator, which is a major fulcrum for global weather in general.
What the projected scenario will do to weather patterns is anyone’s guess, but you’ll find few optimistic projections. You could have more cyclones, driven by air pressure and sea temperature variations. You could have gigantic droughts, storm-induced floods, and of course the ubiquitous forest fires.
The options
The options are:
• Fix it.
• Fix it.
• Fix it.
• Look forward in an ongoing stupor to an incoming global train wreck, human and environmental.
Maybe if the world is ever run by people with a single IQ point, things will get better, but I’m not holding my breath. That’s the only real working option – Get real, and do it now.
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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