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Matthew Huber of Purdue University  (Source:
The paper describes what would happen to humans and other mammals if global temperatures were to rise a certain amount over the course of this century

A Purdue climatologist has published a paper that questions, "How much warming can humans physically handle?"

Matthew Huber, a Purdue University climatologist, wrote a scientific paper that describes what would happen to humans and other mammals if expected rises in global temperature were to occur by the year 2100. Average estimates from certain models land in the 3 to 4 degrees Celsius range, while others predict 10 or even 20 degree hikes.

Using a measurement technique called "wet-bulb temperature," Huber and Sherwood were able to model what would happen to humans if the 3, 4, 10 or 20 degree increases were to occur by 2100. The wet-bulb temperature method consists of a thermometer bulb wrapped in wet cloth and ventilated, which represents the most perfect scenario for a human to withstand increasing global temperatures: a naked, healthy adult standing in the shade while drinking gallons and gallons of water. Any other scenario that strays from this perfect example would place heat-related stress on a person or mammal to some degree depending on the increase in global temperature.

"We intentionally were trying to explore the upper limit of what humans can possibly stand," said Huber. "Essentially we were assuming a perfectly acclimated person, in perfect health, not performing physical labor, and out of the sun, and were then asking, 'What would it take to kill them quickly?' A real person would be profoundly uncomfortable, miserable and/or sick long before we reach the limit discussed in our paper. Infants, pregnant women, and the elderly would be especially vulnerable long before we hit the limit discussed.

"Thus, the global mean temperature increase of about >10°C that causes widespread heat death in our paper probably is a significant overestimate of the threshold at which substantial harm [would come] to societies and individuals would suffer harm and/or reduced productivity. Put in more prosaic terms, large parts of the world would be violating OSHA and international health standards for work long before we approach this >10°C threshold. But we wanted to be sure we had a limit set by physical and thermodynamic laws and not by human ones (since those are mutable)."

According to Huber, it's most important for the world to set a goal of what temperature increase to avoid. He believes avoiding a 2 degree Celsius increase by 2100 would be impossible by this point, but maybe a 6 degree (and definitely 10 degree) increase is preventable if the proper actions are taken.

If a 10 or 12 degree global temperature increase was achieved by 2100, Huber said people would likely be dying in the streets or running to air conditioned-only locations. However, increased air conditioning can lead to power grid issues, and the grid is strained enough as it is.

What would the world be like if we hit a 12 degree Celsius increase?

"My nightmare," said Huber. "I'm in Oklahoma on a hot summer day. Under a heat lamp. Running. Wrapped in plastic."

There is much debate over whether climate models are correct or not, so Huber's method of basing his results of off many of them (which have varied results of 3 to 20 degree Celsius predicted hikes by 2100) have caused scientists to be skeptical.

"The models aren't perfect," said Huber. "The thing to ask is, are they biased to produce a world that is too warm or too cold in the future? For 30 years, climate modelers have compared simulations of past climate change (glacial intervals, greenhouse climates such as the Eocene) against data and found that models get the general climate right but that they are systematically biased to be somewhat too insensitive to forcing. In other words, what modeling of past climates tells us is that these models are—if anything—biased to underpredict future climate change."

Another question addressed is whether humans can adapt to the increase in global temperature. Huber seems to think some can through burrowing, staying near bodies of water, reducing activities and becoming more active at night.

"The most direct way for humans to respond physiologically, which would take thousands of years if at all (we are most likely to change our behaviors) is to get small and skinny, to decrease our volume and maximize our surface area so we can lose heat more effectively," said Huber.

Earlier this week, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said that manmade global warming has been overexaggerated, and that humans could easily adapt to rising global temperatures. He also blamed a lazy press, illiterate public and fear-mongering advocacy groups for the bad light placed on the oil industry.

"We have spent our entire existence adapting," said Tillerson. "We'll adapt. It's an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution."

Huber and Sherwood's paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Mother Jones

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By maugrimtr on 7/3/2012 8:31:32 AM , Rating: 3
Typical misinterpretation of reality. Short term variations do not equal a long term trend. The trend towards higher temperatures remains in place even with a short-term plateau in the data. If anything, this excites the hell out of scientists because it means they need to discover something new, some glittering piece of new knowledge, to put into the models they use. This is why science exists.

And no, even 10 years cannot be called "long term". It's a plateau - not even registering a statistically significant temperature drop. And if you did research it more thoroughly, you'd notice that scientists have been busy digging for what's causing it.

A possible explanation is that changes in ocean currents led to increased sea level cooling (cold water cools - it's a miracle). Notably, should the data back that up, it means global warming is still increasing (a postive and negative trend just canceling out to your plateau in temps doesn't mean the postive/negative trends can be ignored!).

Global warming. Still occurring as expected by the vast majority of scientists on the planet.

By Tony Swash on 7/3/2012 10:13:03 AM , Rating: 5
Typical misinterpretation of reality. Short term variations do not equal a long term trend. The trend towards higher temperatures remains in place even with a short-term plateau in the data.

Can you clarify your position please. If your support for the CO2 causes warming is based on science and rationality and not faith then I presume that you would accept that the hypothesis that CO2 drives warming, like all scientific hypothesis, offers the opportunity to be disproved by real world observed data. It seems to me, and I assume should be obvious to everyone, that a fundamental way in which the hypothesis that increasing CO2 causes warming can be disproved is if CO2 increases but there is no warming.

We have had increasing CO2 and no warming now for close to fifteen years. You seem to argue that that is too short a time period to undermine the CO2 drives warning theory. The obvious question is how long would such a time period be? If the CO2 drives warming theory is scientific then it should offer at least a suggestion of what sort of time period of increased CO2 and no warming would be considered anomalous.

I should point out to you that that time period, 1998 to 2012 a period of 14 years, is over half the time period of the warming phase, 1975 to 1998 a period of 23 years, that triggered the climate alarm so it is in my opinion not an insignificant period. If 23 years can prove CO2 causes warming but 14 years cannot disprove it then what time period would you suggest is the right measure?

I should also point out that there was a general cooling period from around 1945 to 1975, a period of 30 years. So adding in the recent period of flat temperature we can definitely say that the data shows that in the last 67 years there has only be increasing temperatures in just 23 years.

If anything, this excites the hell out of scientists because it means they need to discover something new, some glittering piece of new knowledge, to put into the models they use. This is why science exists.

I couldn't agree more - and what they might find is that the hypothesis that increases in CO2 drives up global temperatures is false or so incomplete as to be worthless in terms of the prediction of future temperature trends.

The refusal of many supporters of the 'CO2 causes warming theory' to accept that are any circumstances under which it could be disproved makes me suspect that this is for many more a matter of faith than science. Unfortunately one cannot really argue against faith.

By Tony Swash on 7/3/2012 3:24:45 PM , Rating: 3
Are you kidding/sarcastic? This decade alone has produced temperatures that have broken one record after another consecutively. As I speak its 103 degrees outside in North Carolina and has been as such for the past week!

And we in the UK recently had a December that was the coldest for a hundred years and this June is the wettest on record and very cold. What you are talking about is local weather. The weather is a chaotic system and it will produce once in a decade, once in a hundred years and once in a millennium record events, and such records will be being set somewhere almost every day. We have only been accurately measuring weather in most places for a hundred years or so.

What is under discussion is the average global temperature. And that has not increased since at least 1998 and possibly (depending on whose measurement you use) since 1994.

In relation to record breaking events you may want to look at this web page which has some interesting information and links relating to weather records.

By EnzoFX on 7/3/2012 4:51:05 PM , Rating: 4
More stable doesn't mean unaffected. Ignorance. He did say it was the coldest winter in a long time, you do realize that's part of climate change... More ignorance.

By HurleyBird on 7/3/2012 6:19:28 PM , Rating: 4
The climate is always changing. It's not man made.

It is, however, man influenced. Nobody intelligent denies that. The question is, how much, and by what methods. Even taking GHG emissions out of the picture entirely, man would still be influencing the climate with land use changes, urban heat islands, airliners interacting with cloud cover, waste heat, etc.

By HurleyBird on 7/3/2012 6:13:09 PM , Rating: 3
More stable doesn't mean unaffected. Ignorance. He did say it was the coldest winter in a long time, you do realize that's part of climate change... More ignorance.

Trying to twist colder temperatures into evidence for global warming is the ultimate ignorance, equal to those on the other side who deny the greenhouse effect entirely.

In order for any idea to be scientific, there needs to be conditions that disprove it. When everything you see, even contradictory evidence, is proof that global warming is real you're no longer thinking in the realm of science -- you're in the realm of religious zealotry.

Devastatingly cold winters in Britain we're local weather. They no more disprove global warming than a record high in some other region proves it. Only global data matters, and those who use local temperatures and weather to argue their points are quite simply pushing an agenda.

By StormyKnight on 7/4/2012 2:25:42 AM , Rating: 2
Observations from the May 2012 Climate Conference:

- According the UN’s IPCC report, global sea levels have fallen.
- Over the past 500 years global temperatures rise and fall every 25-30 years.
- The UN’s last ten-year temperature forecast was wrong–it never warmed. Period.
- Extra solar activity warms oceans (storing excess heat), causing a temporary sea level rise. When solar activity decreases the stored oceanic heat is released into the atmosphere to help the planet maintain a temperature balance (at which time the sea levels decrease).
- International satellite readings illustrate global sea-levels have dropped since 2010.
- NOAA satellites show that global temperatures have been dropping for the last two years.
- If CO2 were to double (or even triple) in atmosphere, plant life would thrive, crops would see great yields, habitats would be healthier, and people would live longer (by the way, CO2 does NOT drive temperature).
- in the US average longevity has increased due to people move from the north to the south (where temperatures average 15-20 degrees warmer)–by 7 years.

By hrrmph on 7/5/2012 9:50:56 AM , Rating: 2
Well played, Mr. StormyKnight. You almost had me there.

As a centrist, scientifically oriented layman that has never made a post on the subject, I admit that I misinterpreted your references. A little doubt was creeping in: maybe the establishment was lying to me, hood-winking me, pulling the wool over my eyes. Poor, foolish me.

But, that is your game isn't it? Your intent is to join Mr. Swash and deceive with plausibility and to divert from fact, is it not?

Here's what gave you away:

I thought, "Let's see what the UN's May 2012 Climate Conference had to say." Ohhh... I see... that wasn't a UN conference at all that you referenced. Nor was it a conference of non-political, unbiased, serious scientists trying to figure out how much if any portion of global warming is human influenced, and what are the repercussions. Very clever, indeed.

It was actually a conference that was held by the Heartland Institute. It seems that the entire purpose of the institute and their 'International Conference on Climate Change' series exists for one purpose and one purpose only: To refute any climate change result that finds that it is possible for humans to influence climate change, no matter what the actual scientific observations are.

Well it seems people are losing interest in Heartland and the ICCC. Donors are dwindling and supporters are pulling out.

It seems Heartland is so desperate to get attention that they felt compelled to place a billboard advertisement that implied that global warming believers were terrorists! Yea...ahhh.. class act, that group.

Ohh, one more thing Mr. StormyKnight. You forgot to provide any links. Here, I'll do it for you:


Now, getting back to the original article: It has too much sensationalism and speculation. Not enough factual observations are included in the article.

I don't doubt the researchers' ideas are plausible, but plausible isn't good enough.

I have an open mind and an affinity for groundbreaking results where the findings are counter to the expected - that is where great science often appears. So following that line of thinking, it's just as easy to say it's plausible that humans would thrive on a warmer planet.

But, affinity for either side doesn't make it right. Accurate, well-analyzed, and properly explained data makes for the 'right' conclusion.

There just isn't enough data presented in the article for the reader to feel that the author or the researcher have compellingly and conclusively made their point.

Even as a summary of the researcher's work, it failed to do anything other than draw the user's 'click' and start another useless debate from a bunch of people who 'know' little on the subject (might as well throw me in that group while we're opening the kimono).

So DailyTech, just how many times do you expect readers to click and be disappointed with the content, before they just start skipping your climate change articles?

I would suggest that you up the quality of the content (especially the analysis and explanation).


In any case here is a blurb from the extract (that DailyTech DID actually link):

"Peak heat stress, quantified by the wetbulb temperature TW, is surprisingly similar across diverse climates today. TW never exceeds 31 °C. Any exceedence of 35 °C for extended periods should induce hyperthermia in humans and other mammals, as dissipation of metabolic heat becomes impossible.

While this never happens now, it would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7 °C, calling the habitability of some regions into question.

With 11–12 °C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed. Eventual warmings of 12 °C are possible from fossil fuel burning.

One implication is that recent estimates of the costs of unmitigated climate change are too low unless the range of possible warming can somehow be narrowed. Heat stress also may help explain trends in the mammalian fossil record."


Now here is a layman's question (mine, of course):

If the researchers are saying that some areas would become too hot to be habitable, what would happen to the areas of the Earth that are currently too cold to be habitable today?

And, no I'm not taking sides. I just want to know the answer to this: If science is asking me and others to change behavior (ie: lower consumption, choose other products, lower procreation, pay higher taxes, pay higher prices), what happens if I and others don't? Who and what suffers? Who and what suffers the most?


Full disclosure: I really enjoy snorkeling on coral reefs and fishing in swamps and mangrove lagoons. I also enjoy building and operating high-powered computers and driving high-powered, high capacity vehicles. I enjoy taking flights of many, many thousands of miles in length to faraway places. I don't do these things all of the time, but I enjoy them on occasion.

So are we to stop doing these things? To what extent?

What if I have no children, but my neighbor has 4 - am I to sacrifice my lifestyle to subsidize his? What if he has 6, 12, 20, 30... children?

What if he is devoutly religious and his religion tells him not to use birth control? He only wants 1, 2, or 3 children, but his spirituality enabler tells him he must let his god decide how many times he inseminates his partner. What sacrifices must I make on his behalf, then?

What if I wish to 'do my part' and buy an electric vehicle because I feel that my 'wealthy' high-consumption nation is polluting the 'poor' low-consumption nations - but my neighbor next door wants to buy a cheaper, higher polluting vehicle because he doesn't believe there is a problem?

What if I don't believe there is a problem and I want to continue to operate the less efficient equipment that I already bought and paid for with hard-earned dollars? What damage will I do?

Let's take the gloves off - will this issue start wars? Cyber wars? Shooting wars? Fights for water? Fights for colder climates and real estate? Mass die-offs?

Don't just taunt us. What is really going on here? When and where? Ask the HARD questions!


By juserbogus on 7/3/2012 10:02:20 PM , Rating: 1
If your support for the CO2 causes warming is based on science and rationality and not faith then I presume that you would accept that the hypothesis that CO2 drives warming, like all scientific hypothesis, offers the opportunity to be disproved by real world observed data.

correct! and *real world" observed data shows that to be the case. stop with your fud and actually try to understand what the science says.

By Tony Swash on 7/4/2012 6:03:30 AM , Rating: 2
correct! and *real world" observed data shows that to be the case. stop with your fud and actually try to understand what the science says.

Can I ask what real world evidence?

I started out being agnostic on the issue of whether CO2 was causing warming and if it was whether it was dangerous or not. I just didn't know much about it, but it seemed to be an important issue so I spent a lot of time looking at the evidence that was used to support the theory that CO2 was driving dangerous climate change. I was really surprised at how poor that evidence was and how little the supporters of the theory wanted to discuss the evidence in any detail.

I am prepared to change my mind on this issue if the evidence convinces me to do so. So please can anyone actually point me towards the evidence that supports the theory that CO2 is driving dangerous climate change and that the recent small changes in global temperature are not just natural climate variation?

By senecarr on 7/10/2012 9:14:13 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, we continued to have the warmest weather on record all this time, but from roughly 1998 to 2008, we have not seen us going higher for the annual average.
Most of it correlates directly with the change in atmospheric aerosols, mainly in the form of increased sulfates from China. Around the same time frame, China began a massive ramp up in cheap coal burning power plants - coal plants without scrubbers (as China had but is now requiring scrubbers) produce large amounts of sulfates.

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