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5 Percent Too High
May 7, 2010 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Odds of Cooking the Grandkids: "There is a horrible paper in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which looks at how the limits of human physiology interact with upper-range global warming scenarios. The bottom line conclusion is that there is a small - of order 5% - risk of global warming creating a situation in which a large fraction of the planet was uninhabitable (in the sense that if you were outside for an extended period during the hottest days of the year, even in the shade with wet clothing, you would die)."

"To give you a feeling for the likely uninhabitable regions, it's the portions of the map above that are in the white or pink/purple color (above 35°C wet bulb temperature on the scale). As you can see, it includes most of the eastern US, much of inland Brazil and Latin America, tropical Africa, pretty much all of India, portions of northern China, and most of Australia."
posted by symbollocks (47 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
So buy your kids some air conditioner manufacturers' stocks for their next birthday, to balance it all out.
posted by XMLicious at 11:31 AM on May 7, 2010


In the Britain this is referred to as a "vacation"
posted by srboisvert at 11:31 AM on May 7, 2010


I thought this was going to be about cannibalism among the elderly. Which still would've been horrible, of course.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:34 AM on May 7, 2010 [14 favorites]


One solution might be not having grandchildren. We'll just call them something else.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:34 AM on May 7, 2010


Most of the eastern US is already unbearable in the summertime anyway. Sure, I wouldn't actually die if outside for an extenede period of time in that heat and humidity. But I would want to. So maybe this is a good thing.
posted by The World Famous at 11:35 AM on May 7, 2010


It took me a minute to figure out that the lighter purplish tones were the hot and uninhabitable areas on that map. I guess I usually associate the deep reds and purples with whatever severity a map like that is trying to present.
posted by Think_Long at 11:35 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or to rephrase that, "...which looks at how the limits of human physiology interact with values of a projection that we believe to be least likely to occur."

I am all for global warming and climate prediction, but people have been scaring other people with statistics since the inception of statistics. I have tried to read the actual paper and see what they are talking about, but I don't have a log-in, and I am not going to pay $10 to read it.
posted by 517 at 11:38 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


This sucks, obviously, but even assuming their calculations are accurate "uninhabitable" is misleading. They theorize that if you spent at least 6 hours outside in a wet bulb temperature of over 95F (35C) without any active cooling, you would die. That sounds suspicious to me but even granting it, that doesn't make it uninhabitable, it means that a few days per year you would have to be careful not to overheat and die.

I'm not sure how that translates to uninhabitable. 6 hours? What do you think happens if you spend 20 minutes outside naked in much of a Midwestern winter? Is the Midwest uninhabitable? It's true that you can bundle up in order to passively keep warm and you would need active cooling rather than passive, but that's offset by the fact that they're talking about 6+ hours of exposure.

It just seems like using the word "uninhabitable" weakens their point.

I'd have to be convinced that a wet bulb temperature of 95F is fatal, though. And that the wet bulb temperature never went above 95F when I was growing up in Connecticut. There were days of 105F dry bulb with 90%+ humidity, which should translate into a really high wet bulb temp.
posted by Justinian at 11:39 AM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


PANIC!
posted by Nothing... and like it at 11:39 AM on May 7, 2010


So does this mean the RV in Death Valley is still a good "plan B"?
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:40 AM on May 7, 2010


I thought this was going to be about cannibalism among the elderly.

Oh, it is. We're just not going to figure that out until we've translated the first few chapters, and by then it'll be too late.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 11:41 AM on May 7, 2010


I am pleased to see that southern california remains, as always, awesome.
posted by flaterik at 11:41 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I, too, initially thought this was going to be about cannibalism. And since it mentioned odds, I was thinking it might be,

"Given a generation raised with the influences of Fox News, we now can calculate the odds of people cooking their grandchildren, not particularly out of intentional cannibalism, but just out of accident."

I've always set our bar low for civilization these days, "Do you eat babies?", and with putting labels on toasters that they're not for use in the bathtub, I figure we're about 5 minutes away from them babyback rib cookouts these days.
posted by yeloson at 11:51 AM on May 7, 2010


Sunshine on my shoulders makes me melty
Sunshine in my face can boil my eyes
Sunshine on the water cooks the fishies
Sunshine almost always makes us die

If I had a day that I could give you
I'd sure as shit not give you today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make the sun go away

Sunshine on my shoulders makes them crispy
Sunshine on my toes makes them french fries
Sunshine on my head ignites my earlobes
Sunshine almost always makes us die

Sunshine almost always...
[sound of bacon sizzling]
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:55 AM on May 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Houses in Sudbury are still cheap.
posted by GuyZero at 11:58 AM on May 7, 2010


WTF! I moved to Boston, in part, to avoid global warming. Why is the East Coast getting all the attention? I vote Texas should be too hot, and Boston should be pleasantly cool.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:00 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's just like that old "Twilight Zone" episode "The Midnight Sun." How prescient!
posted by blucevalo at 12:01 PM on May 7, 2010


(pedants: I realize the relative humidity in Connecticut wouldn't have been 90% at 105F. I was hyperbolizing.)
posted by Justinian at 12:04 PM on May 7, 2010


Nothing... and like it: "PANIC!"

5% chance. No need to panic. More like: INSURANCE!
posted by stbalbach at 12:04 PM on May 7, 2010


WTF! I moved to Boston, in part, to avoid global warming.

What part of the word "global" did you not understand?

(And it's not "global warming" it's "global climate change.")
posted by The World Famous at 12:06 PM on May 7, 2010


One solution might be not having grandchildren. We'll just call them something else.

Livestock?
posted by philip-random at 12:11 PM on May 7, 2010


Sous-Vide in a cooler will be a helluva lot easier.
posted by pappy at 12:11 PM on May 7, 2010


"As you can see, it includes most of the eastern US, much of inland Brazil and Latin America, tropical Africa, pretty much all of India, portions of northern China, and most of Australia."

Oh, come on. People are fungible. You can have them here or there. The fact of the matter is we've made a judgment, and we've announced the judgment.
posted by markkraft at 12:14 PM on May 7, 2010


PANIC!

Nah, I tried that for a while back in the 1980s when I was doing way too many stay-up-all-night drugs and it rained non-stop for 49 days and 49 nights. Eventually, I just exhausted myself, thought I had some terminal disease, lost my job, sold my car, started walking everywhere, stopped doing most of the drugs and slowly, surely, started to feel good again (or at least committed to the notion that the Apocalypse wasn't so much coming as already here and it hadn't killed me so far, so why sweat it?) Then I fell in love and that was a whole other madness.

Sorry, what were we talking about?
posted by philip-random at 12:18 PM on May 7, 2010


To serve grandchildren.

You'll probably need a boat in Death Valley not an RV for that Plan B. However the new beachfront property in Phoenix may be a nice option.
posted by Babblesort at 12:25 PM on May 7, 2010


I thought this would be about some really tragic but theoretically possible cooking accidents. Whew!
posted by DarkForest at 12:39 PM on May 7, 2010




I am pleased to see that southern california remains, as always, awesome.


Only in the meteorological sense could southerrn California be thought of as awesome.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:41 PM on May 7, 2010


One solution might be not having grandchildren. We'll just call them something else.

Just don't call them late to dinner, I guess. Especially if they are the dinner.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:16 PM on May 7, 2010


Only in the meteorological sense could southerrn California be thought of as awesome.

You have clearly never been to Apex Electronics. Southern California is awesome in many, many ways.

Though I do readily concede that there are many non-awesome things about Southern California.
posted by The World Famous at 1:16 PM on May 7, 2010


I find that grandchildren are best cooked when quite young, in a slowcooker. Overnight is best, with some onions and carrots on the bottom to hold the meat out of the juices.
posted by hippybear at 1:22 PM on May 7, 2010


Is the Midwest uninhabitable?

As someone who has lived in the Midwest my entire life, I would have to say 'yes'.

Speaking of, I like how, if you look closely at the map, that the Milwaukee/ Chicago area color coded as being the second from the worst, this means that this particular slice of hell gets to be ranked as both one of the hottest as well as some of the coldest.

No wonder this whole region is full of crazy people. We have to be like this to survive here.

posted by quin at 1:26 PM on May 7, 2010


there there, liquidwolf. jealousy is not attractive.
posted by flaterik at 1:26 PM on May 7, 2010


Wake up, people! PNAS is a cookbook!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:01 PM on May 7, 2010


Perhaps we could eat the grandparents? No, nevermind, too tough.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:14 PM on May 7, 2010


Here is a recent computer simulation of what the nightmare scenario might look like.
posted by Kabanos at 2:30 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


After reading Bill Bryson's "A Brief History of Nearly Everything" I was paranoid for quite a while about all the cataclysmic things that could wipe us all out any day now. I wonder how this stacks up against an eruption of the supervolcano under Yellowstone, for instance?
posted by mattholomew at 2:35 PM on May 7, 2010


Almost certainly much more likely to occur in the next 200 years and without question can't be compared to Yellowstone blowing in terms of damage and disruption to human life. Yellowstone would wipe out much of central North America and cause crop failures for years.... and would be sudden so you couldn't prepare for it.
posted by Justinian at 3:04 PM on May 7, 2010


Now the question is, would some areas that were previously uninhabitable then become habitable? Yeah, maybe we couldn't all live in New York or New Jersey, but what about the Canadian Shield? Or Russia?

Four of seven continents being pretty much unlivable does kinda suck, though.
posted by limeonaire at 3:40 PM on May 7, 2010


I think the most important question is how these kind of temperatures would affect food crops. I don't think India or Southeast Asia would be growing much rice under superhot conditions. South America, Africa, Australia, would all become gigantic deserts. If events come to pass like this, there's no way the Earth in 2100 or whenever could support a human population the size it is today.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:14 PM on May 7, 2010


Kevin Street: You're ignoring the possibility that other areas, previously not suitable for growing crops, would be able to take up the slack. If the climactic sweet spot in North America moved northwards it wouldn't mean everyone starves, it would mean that instead of growing grain in the midwest USA and southern plains provinces of Canada we would grow grain mostly in a bigger swatch of Canada and not so much in the USA.

I'm not arguing this is a good thing, only that it's not as simple as "everybody starves". It's not clear how the food supply would be affected only that it would be different than we have now.
posted by Justinian at 4:53 PM on May 7, 2010


But muskeg isn't suitable for growing grain, the soil is too acidic, and when the permafrost melts there's going to be all kinds of weirdness with the water table. It takes time for the land to adapt to changing temperatures so it can support a wider variety of life, and with the smaller amount of sunlight available at northern latitudes the changes in things like soil chemistry are going to occur at much slower rates than in the south. If the hotter temperatures in that paper were some new kind of stable state, they might be growing grain in Nunavut in two or three centuries, but anything sooner would take massive amounts of artificial assistance.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:18 PM on May 7, 2010


holy crapooola. what am i gonna do!
posted by tarantula at 7:43 PM on May 7, 2010


we get the climate that we deserve
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:26 PM on May 7, 2010


Just don't call them late to dinner, I guess. Especially if they are the dinner.

"Too late, son - everyone's eaten."
posted by aqsakal at 2:10 AM on May 8, 2010


Yellowstone would wipe out much of central North America and cause crop failures for years

And the planes would be grounded. Won't someone think of the jet-setting rich next time?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:18 AM on May 8, 2010


Cooking the grandchildren is all well and good, but putting them in the sun in an uninhabitable part of the planet might be like broiling them, so you want to slice the meat thin and turn it over after a few minutes.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:11 PM on May 8, 2010


"You'll probably need a boat in Death Valley not an RV for that Plan B. However the new beachfront property in Phoenix may be a nice option."

Phoenix is 340m above sea level so isn't likely to have new beach front property.
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 AM on May 9, 2010


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