FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Killer Heat Forever, From Our Fossil-Fueled Inertia

Tule Lake bed. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Sometime between 2070 and 2099, assuming “business as usual” between now and then as regards the use of fossil fuels, the following will occur:

+ For the equivalent of a week or more each year, about 120 million people across the U.S.A. will be exposed to conditions so hot, the heat index (or “feels like” temperature, which is produced by the combination of heat and humidity) will surpass the limits of the National Weather Service’s heat index charts. Depending on locality at that time, the upper limit of the heat index scale could be at or above 127°F (52.8°C);

+ In 47 of the lower 48 U.S. states, these “off-the-charts” conditions will occur in at least one county at least once a year. Historically, “off-the-charts” conditions have only occurred in the Sonoran Desert region, along the California-Arizona border, and only for a few days each year.

Last week, the Union of Concerned Scientists released Killer Heat, a report analyzing how the frequency of days with a dangerously hot heat index — the combination of temperature and humidity the National Weather Service calls the “feels like” temperature — will change in response to the global emissions choices we make in the coming decades.

Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), briskly describes this quite likely hot late 21st century for the U.S.A. in (1); she was the lead scientific author of the research paper that arrived at the detailed geographical distribution and frequency of occurrence of these future high temperature conditions (2); and she was part of the team of Union of Concerned Scientists people who produced that agency’s report (3) and interactive website (4) for the informational benefit of the general public, about these looming national and regional climatic changes (for the worse),

The expected temperature conditions are reported for seven regions (in sum covering the 48 contiguous states): Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southern Great Plains, Northern Great Plains, Southwest, Northwest; and are also broken down with great specificity for each of the 3,109 counties of the contiguous U.S.

Kristy Dahl and the Union of Concerned Scientists have done a marvelous job of presenting the data very clearly, and of making its implications compellingly explicit.

Two lessons are available from this work:

1) The sooner we cease using fossil fuels to generate energy, and the more quickly and significantly we reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases, the lower the excessive climatic heating we — and our descendants — will have to suffer through in the future. And that future will last a long time (200,000 years) because nature removes CO2 from the atmosphere very slowly;

2) Local and regional governments and public service agencies must devise strategies, programs, and procedures to provide public“heat relief” methods for the people living in the regions they serve (or ‘supervise’), and they must also create or expand facilities for achieving that end. Basically, we have to evolve our current system of episodic emergency services(like fire departments, rescue teams, and ambulance transports) into a public (i.e. free) system of chronic emergency services. “Help” will be needed widely “all the time.”

The reports produced by Kristy Dahl and her UCS colleagues give a vivid picture of an imminent swelteringly uncomfortable (and unhealthy) mid-range future — see them. The vividness of the image of that future discomfort is undoubtedly the most useful result of this work and its reporting, because that vividness may motivate more serious governmental efforts to swerve American society away from its mindless fossil-fueled consumerist (and militarist) obsession, which is increasingly cooking us and our children and grandchildren, etc.

Notes

(1) Will the U.S. Be a Dystopian Hellscape in 2100 if Emissions Keep Rising?, Kristy Dahl 22 July 2019, [news release and summary of findings in UCS report, (3)]

(2) Increased frequency of and population exposure to extreme heat index days in the United States during the 21st century, Kristy Dahl, et. al., 16 July 2019, [science paper]

(3) Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days (2019), Union of Concerned Scientist [report for the general public, based (2)]

(4) Killer Heat in the United States: The Future of Dangerously Hot Days, [Interactive Maps, from (3)]

More articles by:

Manuel Garcia, Jr, once a physicist, is now a lazy househusband who writes out his analyses of physical or societal problems or interactions. He can be reached at mangogarcia@att.net

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail