“It is a hoax. All of it. I don’t know how else to say it. All of that is just wrong, and these people know it’s wrong.”
—Rush Limbaugh on global warming
fter Earth just had its warmest May on record, after the northern Midwest just received two months worth of rain in about a week, yet another Republican vying for office has decided that questioning climate change is good politics. Unfortunately, that news is pretty ho-hum these days. It’s sort of like saying that somebody said something stupid on Fox and Friends this morning. Not much news there.
But what isn’t ho-hum is the latest report on what is happening to our climate and what will happen if we allow Republican know-nothings to run the government.
The report is called “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.” You can go check it out for yourself. It will wow you, if you can be wowed about bad news from scientists. Here I will publish only a portion of the report having to do with heat and humidity in the Midwest, a nagging problem for those of us who live here in Missouri about this time of year. The heat-humidity combo plate can sometimes keep you indoors for days—and nights for that matter.
First, the report makes clear that because of climate change, we Midwesterners will have “fewer winter days with temperatures below freezing.” I suppose that’s the good news. But we will “experience an additional 7 to 26 days above 95°F each year by mid-century, and 20 to 75 additional extreme-heat days—potentially more than 2 additional months per year of extreme heat—by the end of the century.” And, no, that’s not the bad news. This is:
But the real story in this region is the combined impact of heat and humidity, which we measure using the Humid Heat Stroke Index, or HHSI. The human body’s capacity to cool down in the hottest weather depends on our ability to sweat, and to have that sweat evaporate on our skin. Sweat keeps the skin temperature below 95°F, which is required for our core temperature to stay around 98.6°F. But if the outside temperature is a combination of very hot and very humid—if it reaches a HHSI of about 95°F—our sweat cannot evaporate, and our core body temperature can rise until we actually collapse from heat stroke. Even at an HHSI of 92°F, core body temperatures can get close to 104°F, which is the body’s absolute limit.
To date, the U.S. has never experienced heat-plus-humidity at this scale. The closest this country has come was in 1995 in Appleton, Wisconsin, when the HHSI hit 92°F. (At the time, the outside temperature was 101°F and the dew point was 90°F.) The only place in the world that has ever reached the unbearable HHSI of 95°F was Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 2003 (outside temperature of 108°F, dew point of 95°F). Our research shows that if we continue on our current path, the average Midwesterner could see an HHSI at the dangerous level of 95°F two days every year by late century, and that by the middle of the next century, she or he can expect to experience 20 full days in a typical year of HHSI over 95°F, during which it will be functionally impossible to be outdoors.
That scares me, even though I likely won’t be around when things get that bad. I don’t think I’m going to live to be 200, unless that cryogenic storage kit I found on a right-wing huckster’s website pays off (I got a really good deal on it, and it came with a pair of X-ray sunglasses!). But even if I’m not around, there will be somebody here, somebody who will experience such extreme heat and humidity, among other troubling things like rising sea levels. And all of us living today, who may have a chance to do something good for those we will never meet, should be interested in investing in a future we will never know because so many before us invested in futures they never knew. Funny how that works.
The Risky Business Project that produced this report is rather unique in that it looked at and then expressed the problem in terms of “a common language of risk that is already part of every serious business and investment decision we make today.”
From the report:
Our research also shows that if we act today to move onto a different path, we can still avoid many of the worst impacts of climate change, particularly those related to extreme heat. We are fully capable of managing climate risk, just as we manage risk in many other areas of our economy and national security—but only if we start to change our business and public policy decisions today.
Given what we know about Republican politics today, it may seem like a fantasy to think that we could change our policy decisions in any meaningful way. But I want to publish a graphic from the Risky Business report that should be used at every congressional hearing, every think-tank seminar, on the subject of climate change. If you have ever experienced the misery of high heat and high humidity, this map should make you demand from your legislator some action: