Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, January 18, 2019

What really matters

Australia is suffering from its worst heat wave in history. The heat is so extreme that it killed one third of the entire population of flying foxes -- actually a species of bat -- in two days. If this continues, substantial parts of the country will become essentially uninhabitable, as will much of the Middle East and the tropics. And it will continue.

Here's what's been happening with heat waves around the world:

A heatwave was defined as a period of 4 or more days at a given location where the
minimum daily temperature was greater than the 99th percentile of the distribution
of minimum daily temperature at that location over the 1986-2005 reference period,for the summer months.

You aren't going to like it when it happens to you, believe me. Solomon and colleagues in NEJM comment on the global emergency, which is described more fully by Haines and Ebi here. They provide this figure:

I know it's too small to read but you can go to the original. Extreme weather events including massive storms, droughts, and wildfires; heat stress killing people and making it impossible to work; air pollution from burning fossil fuels and wildfires; water shortages; food shortages; vector born diseases; mass migration and socio-cultural stress and destruction. These aren't just off in some distant future. They are happening now, and it will get worse fast.

And here we are squabbling about an idiotic wall on the southern border, all because Vladimir Putin put his stooge in the White House. Listen up folks, this is the gravest emergency humanity has ever faced. World War II happened, and then it was over. This won't be over, ever, unless we stop it, starting now. Nothing else matters if we don't fix this.


Anonymous said...

Let's assume that 1) This is an ongoing trend into the future and 2) that it's within our power to change things.

What solution do you propose? How will China get on board? India? Will you stop eating meat, eggs, etc.? Will everyone else.

Your post seems to create more questions than it answers.

Cervantes said...

China and India are on board, in fact. China is making huge efforts to convert to a renewable energy regime, and is as you must know the world's largest manufacturer of photovoltaics. The U.S. is the laggard. I do no eat meat and have not for more than 40 years. I don't know what everyone else will do but I know what they should do.

Mark P said...

We are in the middle, or perhaps the last half, of a global experiment, the largest and longest experiment ever attempted by humans. The experiment is to see what the results are of burning fossil fuels, thus increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases, and thus increasing the global average temperature. What will be the result? Will the good outweigh the bad? Will it be neutral? Will the consequences be catastrophic? Who in their right mind would agree to such an experiment? Who in their right mind would agree to continue such an experiment, given what we see happening right now? The way I see it, their are only two categories of people who favor continuing the experiment. They are the ignorant and the evil. The evil, are, of course, those who benefit.

The Chinese will lead the way on renewable energy resources, and eventually, when we have no other options, we'll be buying stuff from them instead of making it ourselves. Ronald Reagan helped make sure of that when he dumped all of Carter's energy programs. Can you imagine what we might have done if we had kept going on those programs back in the '80's?

And I don't think the appropriate response today is, "Oh, Gee, it's a hard problem, so let's not do anything about it."