Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, June 21, 2010


As you know if you have been paying attention (and I know you have or you wouldn't be among our exceptionally sophisticated readership), For March–May 2010, "the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 14.4°C (58.0°F) — the warmest March-May on record. This value is 0.73°C (1.31°F) above the 20th century average. The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for January–May 2010 was the warmest on record. The year-to-date period was 0.68°C (1.22°F) warmer than the 20th century average."

I know, I know, it's all a hoax by an international conspiracy of scientists who want to impose one-world communistofascioislamosocialism. But what if it isn't?

The weather in Iraq lately has not been exactly hospitable to human life, with temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) for several days in a row. (I know, I know, it's a dry heat. But dry roasted is still roasted.) So it's not surprising that the people are staging angry protests over the lack of electricity.

Here's the problem that seems not to have occurred to very many people. Iraq is one of the hottest places on earth, but all those desirable sunbelt locations, and the Republican heartland from Arizona to Virginia, would already be really lousy places to live without air conditioning. I can guarantee you that Congress would move the national capital to Oregon if they didn't have AC. So what happens as the temperature keeps rising and the price of fossil fuels keeps going up along with it? Do Dallas and Atlanta become ghost towns? Or do we figure out a better way?

Just something to think about.


Anonymous said...

Coming from New Orleans, where not all homes have central air, it's possible to still live without air conditioning. People lived in the south for hundreds of years before electricity. The way the buildings were built to shade from the sun, the use hand fans, wearing linen or cotton clothing, drinking lots and lots of liquids. All make it possible to live without AC. No, it's not necessarily comfortable, but it's possible to live there. Perhaps the populations would fall drastically, but there would still be a sizable population that would stay.
Jamie, New Orleans

Cervantes said...

Yes, people have always lived in hot climates, but I'm really making two points. One, we've gotten used to AC and many of the people who live in those places today would find it intolerable to be without it. They could adjust, but what if the frequency and duration of intense heat waves -- 100 degrees plus -- in high humidity areas increases? Some places really could become uninhabitable, at least for old and frail people. The Chicago heat wave a few years back was credited with hundreds of deaths.

Anonymous said...

The EU heat wave in 2003 killed several tens of thousands of ppl. (25- 30 -35? or more?) France was the most affected, it seemed, as they published numbers and did some auto-criticism.

In August, in F, everyone is on vacation, the country shuts down and goes partying, at home and abroad, and medical, social, neighborhood, networks function no longer. (In fact, Italy had more deaths per capita, but I won’t go into that now.) Those who died were of course vulnerable - mostly elderly ppl, who imho are not well treated in France. Notably, they are doped up with tranqs and such, which does not help for resisting unfamiliar conditions. There were some gruesome scenes, bodies rotting in place as there was nobody to go pick ‘em up. Argh. It shocked everyone.

Basically what happened is that the elderly were left behind in their institutions / homes w. ‘support’, with families gone to Brittany, Spain, counting on med. / social services, who were also all on vacation.

Skeleton staffs were poorly paid, not prepared / trained and possibly uncaring...

France is usually not terribly hot.

Therefore, temps of 40+ celsius for a week or two are unexpected and tip over a threshold.

There was no preparation for such an event. Air conditioning is not common. Not only because it isn’t needed. For example, in Geneva, ok that is CH, air conditioning is banned. (Exceptions are made for those who sell fresh or frozen produce, hospital inner rooms /op rooms, a few other ‘exceptional circumstance’. Domestic fridges are exempt.)

I don’t know the official F policy, I guess there is none, because of their nuclear electricity.

France, in the 20s, 30s, --- 50s, 60s loved heat and welcomed it.

High temps were perceived as fun times, go to plunge in the river, undress, be sexy, tan (after 50s), eat outside, go gasp gasp, wave a fan, have an affair.

F is on a climate fault line, in the sense that in the North, most of the time it is cold and miserable and summer is short and precious; in the south, until recently temps. did not rise above the bearable, and the tourists who came to experience it left a bundle of money.

So, a rise in temp of between 4 and 2 degrees, even in a very short period, such as 10 days, throws all out of whack.

Now don’t ask me about agriculture. I’d post another page...