Yves here. This Real News Network story, keying off the astonishing heat wave now underway in Europe (108 degrees in Paris which has pretty much no air conditioning in residential buildings), highlights the driving factors and how they are expected to play out in the US in coming decades.
DIMITRI LASCARIS This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News Network from Montreal, Canada.
This summer, the climate news cycle has been dominated by two searing heat waves that have afflicted Western Europe. In one European city after another, the record for the all-time high temperature has been broken. Just today, July 25th, the record for the highest temperature in Paris, France was broken again. In the slight, the temperature soared today to a remarkable 42.4 degrees Celsius, or 108.3 degrees Fahrenheit. As Western Europe has been baking in the unprecedented heat, experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists issued an alarming new report about future levels of extreme heat back in the United States. According to that report, in less than 20 years, millions of people in the United States could be exposed to dangerous “off the charts” heat conditions of 127 degrees Fahrenheit or more. For those of you who deal with Celsius, that is nearly 53 degrees. The report goes on to predict that in 60 years, over one-third of the US population could be exposed to such conditions, posing unprecedented health risks.
Now here to discuss this with us is Michael Mann. Michael is a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth Science Systems Service Center at Penn State University. He’s the author of several books. Perhaps most famously in 2012, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. And most recently, The Tantrum That Saved the World, a children’s book on climate change which he co-authored with Megan Herbert. Michael joins us today from State College in Pennsylvania. Thank you for coming back on The Real News, Michael.
MICHAEL MANN Thanks. It’s great to be with you.
DIMITRI LASCARIS Michael, before we get into the meat of the report, I’d just like you to briefly explain for our audience the concept of the heat index, which takes into account not only temperature but also humidity. Why is humidity important for the purposes of human health?
MICHAEL MANN You know, the more humid the air is, the more difficult it is for you to evaporate moisture into the atmosphere. When you perspire, that is one of the ways that the human body cools off— by producing liquid water that then evaporates into the atmosphere that transports heat away from you into the atmosphere. It’s a way of cooling off. And the more humid the air is, the more difficult it is for that moisture to evaporate from you, so it’s more difficult to cool down. This is particularly a problem for the elderly and for infants who are especially prone to heat stress. And so it’s really that combination of the heat and the humidity that threatens human health. And the heat index is one way to try to combine those two things into a measure of how unhealthy that heat is.
DIMITRI LASCARIS Now this report examines three future scenarios. In the worst-case scenario, we take no action to reduce emissions. In the second less heinous scenario, we take slow action to reduce emissions. And in the best-case scenario, we take rapid action to reduce emissions. I’d like to talk to you first about the worst-case scenario because regrettably, that appears to be the path the United States administration is on. In the no-action scenario, what changes according to this report can the US anticipate in terms of extreme heat during the next [inaudible]?
MICHAEL MANN Yeah. Well, the good news is that these scenarios don’t really separate until a couple decades out there. So there’s still time for us to get on the right path, but you’re absolutely right. The current administration has essentially dismantled much of the progress that we had made under the previous administration in meeting our obligations under the Paris treaty and in bringing down our carbon emissions here in the US. The good news though is that because of what states, and cities, and businesses, companies, corporations are doing, we may still meet our Paris obligations. Now, that’s not enough.
If we are to avert ever more catastrophic warming of the planet to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, or ideally one and a half degrees Celsius, which many of the experts who’ve looked at the impacts of climate change have said that that’s really where we start to truly get into the danger zone. If we’re to avert those catastrophic levels of warming, then we need to be bringing our carbon emissions now down dramatically beyond what is committed in the Paris Agreement. So we’ve got a lot of work to do, but there is still time to do it. If you crunch the numbers, what you find is we can still bring that emissions curve down. Ramp that curve down fast enough to avoid crossing the threshold of truly dangerous planetary warming.
DIMITRI LASCARIS I’d like to break down, just so our viewers understand, what’s at stake here according to this report. If we don’t do that, if we end up on a business as usual path for decades to come, what kind of changes can Americans anticipate in terms of the frequency and severity of extreme heat according to this report?
MICHAEL MANN Yeah. I use a simple rule. If you want to have an idea of what we will be facing by the middle of this century absent concerted action on climate change, then what we think of today, what we perceive, what we describe as record heat or a record heat wave— in a few decades, we will simply call that summer. The typical summer day will be like the most extreme day that we have seen in our lifetimes at this point. And what unusual heat, record heat, will look like at that point, we don’t even have an analog for that. And so, clearly if we continue on that path, we’re venturing into dangerous territory where a substantially large part of the planet basically becomes uninhabitable to human beings. And obviously, when you take a growing global population, less land, less food and water because of the aggravating impacts of climate change on those as well. You’re talking about unprecedented levels of conflict. It’s a future that we don’t want to see. The good news is there’s still time to make sure that that is not our future.
DIMITRI LASCARIS You talked a little bit, when we talked about the heat index and the effects of humidity, about the health effects. Could you talk more broadly about the health effects of extreme heat and who are the most vulnerable from a health perspective and why?
MICHAEL MANN Yeah. So the most vulnerable as I said, are the elderly, infants whose bodies are least able to cope with extreme heat. But ironically, there’s also a sort of, you know, there is a distinction when it comes to the impacts of extreme heat and extreme weather events. There’s an important distinction between those of us in the industrial world where we have all this infrastructure to protect ourselves from these weather extremes. We’ve got air conditioning here in the US. We can retreat from the heat.
In a large part of the world, they don’t have that infrastructure. And so, these extreme weather events, this extreme heat is far more dangerous to them. The irony is that they had the least role in creating this problem in the first place. The developing world had the least role when it comes to the carbon pollution from industrialization that has warmed the planet and created these conditions. There’s an important ethical dimension here, which is those who had the least role in creating this problem are the ones who are going to bear the brunt of it, at least in the near-term.
DIMITRI LASCARIS And of course, you know, Michael, the opponents of rapid action on climate change like to tout these supposed economic costs of action. Could you talk just a little bit about the economics effects of extreme heat? And how in particular in a developed economy, like the United States, rapid increases in the severity and the frequency of extreme heat could have detrimental economic impacts in even a developed country, like the United States?
MICHAEL MANN Yeah, absolutely. You know, people, at least the critics like to talk about the cost of taking action. But as you allude to, the cost of inaction— of not acting on this problem— is far greater and we’re seeing the toll that climate change is already taking in the form of these extreme weather events, extreme heat, and drought of course that leads to massive damage to agricultural yields. In the Western US and the Midwestern US in recent years, we’ve seen damage to crops from a combination of unprecedented heat and drought, wildfires that destroy infrastructure, super storms that inundate our coastlines, more extreme rainfall events because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture.
All of these things are taking a tax on our economy that can be measured in hundreds of billions of dollars already here in the United States, hundreds of billions of dollars a year. And that will only become greater if we don’t act on this problem. So the point here is you don’t have to use your imagination to see that the cost of inaction, which we’re seeing play out in real time on our television screens and our newspaper headlines, is far greater than the cost of taking action.
DIMITRI LASCARIS And lastly, Michael, I want to return to the subject I mentioned at the top of the interview, which is the heat waves in Europe. Is the scientific community confident that these two quite extraordinary heat waves in Western Europe are linked in some way to climate change? And if so, why are they confident of that?
MICHAEL MANN Yeah. So at a basic level, we can say that the warming of the planet has made every heat wave worse. We’ve warmed up the planet about a degree and a half Fahrenheit, a degree Celsius, so every single heat wave has that extra amount of warmth already built into it. And that means that we see these extreme heat waves now far more often than we would have if we hadn’t warmed up the planet. So that’s not rocket science; that’s just basic statistics. You warm up the planet, you’re going to get more frequent and intense heat waves. But there is another factor here and it relates to research that my colleagues and I have done in recent years.
There’s an added factor here which is sort of the slowing down of the jet stream and the fact that these huge weather systems get stuck in place. These big high-pressure systems, these high-pressure domes that give us the extreme heat and drought and wildfire that we’ve seen in the Western US and Europe. And then the flip side of that, troughs, these deep low-pressure systems that are associated with extreme rainfall. And here in the Eastern US, we’ve seen record rainfall over the last year or so associated with this very persistent tendency for a trough. These big weather systems get stuck in place. They don’t get moved along. And so, the same location either gets baked by the sun day after day after day, or gets dumped on with rain, with record rain day after day after day. And those are the sorts of conditions that give us these unprecedented, persistent extreme weather events. That has played a role in many of these extreme weather events we’ve seen in recent years.
We know that this phenomenon, the slowing of the jet stream, and it relates in fact to the warming of the Arctic, which changes temperature patterns in a way that slows down the jet stream and gives us more of these stuck weather patterns. So what happens in the Arctic is actually having an impact on us down here in the middle latitudes. That factor did play a role in the first of these two heat waves. A very stuck high-pressure system over Europe for, you know, a number of days on end that gave us those extreme conditions. This latest heat wave, it’s too early to say if that particular factor played a role, but just the fact that we’re seeing these extreme heat waves, you know, now multiple extreme heat waves during the same summer, is a testament to how profound the impact of the warming of the planet now has become when it comes simply to the day to day weather that we see.
DIMITRI LASCARIS Well, we were speaking to leading climate scientist Michael Mann about two recent heatwaves in Europe and a new study relating to extreme heat in the United States in the decades to come. Thank you very much for joining us again on The Real News, Michael.
MICHAEL MANN Thank you. Always a pleasure.
DIMITRI LASCARIS And this is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News Network.
“which has pretty much no air conditioning in residential buildings”
TBH, I do hope it stays so. Air con (regardless of residential or commercial) will make things worse.
Ignoring the energy demand (in theory, solar may be used here), air-con doesn’t “destroy” heat. It moves it from place A to place B. In case of the buildings, from inside to outside. So mass-use of aircon heats the cities even more than they normally would, and the heat has problem dissipating, creating even worse local micro-climate.
Cities where these temperatures are normal developed coping strategies that worked for centuries. That involves things like narrow streets (meaning most of the street is in shade most of the day), cloth shading, external shutters, beige/white colouring of the building, greenery where possible etc. etc.
The problem with “modern” cities is that it’s hard to change them, although a number of these change can be done. For example, a lot of flat roofs int he cities are asphalted over, which can get up to 70-80C during the day (and then heats the building below, as well as the exterior). Green roofs are a bit more expensive, but have very significant impact on how the heat works in the cities.
External shades are a great thing too – about three times more efficient than internal shades. Exterior blinds can be retrofitted to most buildings (it may not look nice, but..) and make a great difference.
I know, we have some, and in this year’s summer it makes a massive difference. So far we had no more than 25C indoor, despite the house being south-facing on a southern slope, getting full sun all day, every day, sunrise to sundown. Our solar water heater regularly goes to >100C and since March we had to gas heat hot water only a few times. Few years back we lived in a similar house (south facing, no shade during the day) with only interior blinds. In current weather I’d expect to have >30C interior temperature daily.
TLDR version – Air con makes things worse (long run), and there are passive methods which give pretty good results.
In my street (10 properties) when I moved here just short of a decade ago, no house had A/C. I put in air source heat pumps primarily for more efficient winter heating, but they are reversible so, yep, in the last month or so they’ve been whirring away in summer as well as winter. Next door-but-one had portables in their upstairs in use from at least a couple of years ago.
Then, during the last week sometime (I’ve not been home that often so can’t say when but in the current heatwave) my next door neighbour’s wall had sprouted three of the little suckers:
They’re not connected up with power and linesets yet, but pretty soon they’ll be, uh, adding to the load.
And I can’t be hypocritical and say oh, how terrible, can’t people just grin and bear it. Our part of my town is very-pro tree — another neighbour wanted to cut down a valuable shade-producing tree just because the birds roosted in it and had the temerity to, well, do what birds do, on his car. Which he had plenty of other parking options in his drive to utilise but he was just too lazy and belligerent to be bothered. The management company of the estate (its a private road) is run by the family of the developer (who live close by) and told him to sod off. No-one supported his request. And we’ve about half a dozen significant (protected) trees — oaks over 200 years old amongst them with huge crowns. And a large strip of designated woodland at the periphery of the group of houses.
But it’s just been infernally hot. I tried to be civic minded an not run the A/C while I was out the house, but when I got home on several days last week, it was 26C downstairs in the living room and 27C in the kitchen — before I started cooking. I ran the A/C while getting a meal together, I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing in the heat. I ran the A/C in the upstairs as it was 28C there (82F) and I couldn’t get to sleep in that, but I set a timer to turn it off after a couple of hours. I woke at 1 o’clock in the morning, baking hot and had to relent and hit the button. It took me another hour or more to get back to sleep and I’m very susceptible in terms of metal functioning to having my sleep cycle disrupted.
I’ve retrofitted the house with every energy conservation trick in the book. I can’t rebuild from scratch — and I doubt I’d get planning permission to construct a passive-cooling prioritised architecture home as it would look out of character. Even if I had the money to do it. There comes a point where nature wins out against even the most inventive of passive cooling strategies.
This is important, this heightened release of histamine, norepinephereine, epinepherine and cortisol for thermoregulation. The method is to condition yourself, either quickly or slowly. As you release more of these neurotransmitters new receptors will for on the neurons to handle the load. You were suffering through the quick way, like an addict who suddenly quits drinking.
There is a limit of course, and it might be impossible based on you genetics, like it is for me. I am a horrible person in the heat. But what helps me is Prazosin, which blocks a1 epinepherine receptors. It makes me much less irritated and hyper-responsive to hot and cold. I can take it as needed as well so I save it for really hot days, or days when it is freezing and I find myself sweating.
It also helps to eat less protein, since protein ins the source of all of these catecholamines.
I’ll definitely try easing back on the protein. Because, ironically, I’d been increasing those food group items, thinking that the less carbohydrate, the better.
But so much, I suspect, of our dietary habits is junk science, habit and old wives’ tales. I must say, I never really stop to think about changing things like that, just to see what happens. It certainly can’t hurt.
~It also helps to eat less protein, since protein ins the source of all of these catecholamines.~
Very interesting, usual Indian diet is quite low on protein, being predominately vegetarian and India is one very hot continent.
I don’t know how your house looks like, but the (standard) UK housing stock would not pass most of the continental measures, which creates a number of problems. Historically, I can understand why houses in the UK were built the way they were (NZ and Australia builds similarly, assuming relatively small delta between the highest and lowest temperatures and the average pretty ok.
The delta between lowest and highest temperatures where I live is close to 70C. I saw lows of -25C, and highs of +40.
The house I currently live in is about 100 years old. It has 60cm solid brick walls, and we put 20cm of mineral wool cladding on top of that (which helps with both heat and cold). The house is south-east facing, with I’d say close to 300m2 of wall surfaces being on direct sun most of the day, about 60m2 of that being windows.
Today we had a fifth day in the row of 30+C temperatures IIRC. At 7:30 in the morning, the outisde was about 25C, inside the house (living room, middle of three floors) 22C. Right now it’s 31C in shade, with inside the house being at 24C. But this is with pretty much all external blinds on the southern side down since 8am, and the windows closed (yes, closed. Why open the windows when it’s way hotter outside than inside? They are open during night after the outside temperature drops below inside, so usually from about 9pm to 7am).
Last week in June we had even more extreme temeperaturs, 38-39C for a week. I don’t think we had more than 25C inside.
If we did not have the external blinds, I’m pretty sure the house would be 30+ inside.
Anyways, my main issue is more than air con is the easy and fast solution, but not really a sustainable one. But even new commercial developments, which can do a lot in terms of passive cooling for relatively small marginal cost, it tends to be ignored. And these heatwaves will get only worse, not better. So new builds/renovations should try to be passive as much as possible, before the “just drop aircon” step is taken.
Are attic fans or other types of exhaust fans used much in the UK? Those are very helpful in warmer climates to reduce the heat load and to benefit from some added air circulation.
Unfortunately, in the UK, attics are not suitable for fan installation. There’s architectural and climatic reasons for this. Plus, building scientists advise that attic fans may — in some climate zones — do more harm than good https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/75600/The-1-Reason-Power-Attic-Ventilators-Don-t-Help
The UK is one such instance — we have what is essentially a marine zone climate so pulling air out the top of the conditioned zone will likely be replaced with more humid air from outside.
I did do a brief experiment ventilating my attic (we call them “lofts” here :-) — another two-nation-divided-by-a-common-language thing!) and while my sampling period was short, it did seem to prove that it wouldn’t help with the humidity issue (although it did of course help with sensible heat loads).
When I still lived in the UK I had the joy of living for a decade in a thatched cottage on the Essex/Suffolk border – Constable country. Under the thatch – 30-inches deep at the ridge – the cottage was always cool even on the hottest days in the summer and warm in the bitterest of winters with only an oil-burning Aga in the kitchen heating the water and warming the house.
Of course the disadvantage of thatch is the cost – it only lasts 30-50 years and we had to have it re-thatched in Norfolk reed which cost (pounds) 50,000 in the mid-80’s and could only do that with the help of a (pounds) 30,000 grant from the local authority! It also becomes home to the biggest, blackest spiders you ever did see.
Unhappily, a couple of years after we left a spark from a nearby stubble burn-off (it is thought) lodged in it, and the whole cottage was destroyed, as a thatch fire is virtually unstoppable. The place has been rebuilt but with a pantiled roof.
Can I ask where? I used to live in East Bergholt for about 5 years..
Last July 18, 2018, it was 118 Fahrenheit in Monrovia, California, which is close to Los Angeles and approximately 30 miles inland from the coast.
Here in Los Angeles, it was 108 F. Even native Live Oak trees got singed from the heat and a lot of vegetation perished.
We live in a 75-year old house that never needed a/c until these temps. 108 F is hot. We could not install central a/c because it required tearing out
walls to access ducts. So we got ductless mini-splits, which have the aesthetic disadvantage of a unit on the wall, but the advantages of being more energy efficient and quieter.
The protracted 6-year drought experienced in California was apparently due to a high-pressure system that got anchored in place.
Just finished reading “The Uninhabitable Earth,” and have to say that we’re cooked, literally. And people are just blithely going about their daily routines.
VEnus used to have a climate that was not too bad. Now it’s cooking, with 98% CO2 content. TBH, it’s not clear how much of that is the Sun’s heating up, and how much are other effects. For all we know, Venus could have had a civilisation that run into the same climate heating thing as we do..
Paradoxical thing is that w/o the water vapour greenhouse effect that we have, the Earth temperature would be about -70C IIRC. The problem is that lots of these systems is very unstable. You nudge it just a bit, and a runaway postive feedback cycle lands you miles off..
The biggest issue with Venus is that its rotates extremely slowly, about once every 117 Earth days, resulting in a negligible magnetic field which allowed solar wind to ionize molecules with hydrogen (especially water) and strip off the lighter hydrogen off the planet. This resulted in the loss of Venusean oceans, and the remaining huge amount of oxygen from the oceans combining with other elements from the atmospheric gases and surface rocks, resulting in gases which are much better at preserving heat. Thus we end up in the runaway greenhouse effect we see today in Venus.
On Earth with its much faster rotation, nearly 24 hours, which is reinforced by our large Moon, and the Earth’s larger size, we are guaranteed to have a decent magnetic field for more than a billion years. So even in the worse predictions for human made climate change on Earth, we won’t get a runaway Venus like greenhouse effect. Although we will still end up with many areas of the Earth becoming uninhabitable and severe loss of life on Earth.
In a billion years or so however, the issues regarding human made climate change becomes mute as the increasing luminosity of the sun will make it hot enough to boil away the oceans on Earth, and make it completrly uninhabitable.
The Uninhabitable Earth
I’m about halfway through, and the info is largely stuff I already know, as if it needs reinforcing.
The big heat is something else, it turns everything lethargic & listless in a coping mechanism nearing TILT.
The hottest here was 118 about 7 or 8 years ago, nearly unbearable. I was driving in 72 degree comfort and lowered the window to make sure the temperature gauge wasn’t fibbing, and it wasn’t.
What would happen if you ran your air conditioning through the night to cool your house and its structures and mass as much as possible by early morning . . . and then turned it all the way off for the day? How long would the house be able to remain cool on overnight stored-up chill?
That is going to depend on two things.
1.)How well insulated the house is. the better the insulation, the longer it takes to warm up to the ambient temp.
2.)How heavy the house is, especially the mass inside the insulation. It takes more heat to heat up masonry walls than wooden ones.
Of course the problems with masonry are twofold as well. For the most part, masonry is used OUTSIDE insulation because one of it’s advantages is weather resistance and low maintenance. The other problem is that the production of masonry is VERY carbon intensive. Bricks have to be fired, and the production of concrete involves a LOT of heat.
If you can use solar cells to power the AC units on your house then the only problem is the low efficiency of the solar cells. The heat is moved from A to B but eventually moves back from B to A so you are not generating much extra heat, just moving it around with solar energy.
There are two things to this. Inside heats up over longer times and larger areas. Air con moves then the heat from inside to outside. It moves more heat (inefficiencies of the process), faster, and in a more concentrated fashion. Especially at night, when normally the environment would be (slowly, evenly) cooling, you get concentrated transfer of energy. For example, see here
That means the environment can’t cool sufficiently overnight, and the next day the “background” heat is higher (fraction, but that adds up over weeks).
Well, this comment and its link give a partial negative answer to my hopeful suggestion to Clive just above. The linked article itself suggests some places to put the “exported heat” other than the outside air of the city . . . like dumping it into the hot water heater. Heating your hot water with your air conditioning system’s waste heat.
Perhaps give up on cooling the whole house or apartment and focus on one thermal safe room which is conditioned down to 78 degrees which is unpleasant but survivable. And let the rest of the house or apartment float on up to 100 or 110 degrees or however hot the Death Valley Heat Wave is going to make it get. And when the Death Valley Heat Wave breaks, then resume living in the rest of the house and cool it down as much as possible at night to get the mass and structures deeply cooled in preparation for the next Heat Wave.
This summer I haven’t got a good sleep until last night. It has been the hottest in my life (we will soon know average july-19 temperature and my guess is that it will hit a new record well above 2003 summer, the hottest I can remember). My family has told me that If I don’t install A/C, I can go away and never return home! Forced by the circumstances I have done a thermal study and estimated that we need about 5 kW of cooling power (counting 10% extra power for very very extreme conditions). We have asked for price quotes in the past — those times I successfully resisted and we didn’t proceed– and I went to check them. Interestingly, those quotes included devices that would provide about 10-13 kW of cooling power. I think this oversizing is all too frequent and results in high costs, excessive cooling and enormous energy waste. Oversizing in heating & cooling has almost certainly been a normal feature and in many instances it has been wild. This adds more weigth to the irony that Mann describes above. This time I won’t be able to resist, I regret to say.
You made me think of the “trogloditas” of southern Spain. Extreme conditions will require extreme coping strategies.
Trogloditas de Granada: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2018/08/cave-underground-dwellers-ancient-modern-granada-spain/
Don’t say that! In Spain the term is used despectively as synonim of brutish.
What. Something like the Morlocks from H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine”?
Ah, apologies. The term was encountered first ‘on the street in Miami’ in the disparaging sense you mentioned, and then in a wiki entry where it was used, as far as I could tell, neutrally as a description without condemnatory implications.
What is the ‘friendly’ word for cave dwellers in Spanish spanish, por favor?
A su servicio.
Hmm, this is not unlike the cliff dwellers of the Desert Southwest (US). The Hopi were not dopi !
The thick adobe buildings on the flat land performed similar to caves. Here’s a link http://www.land2plan.com/?page_id=289 to a passive solar design (1990) that incorporates design features that mitigate against excess energy use.
There was a time in the 1980’s when passive solar design was more prominent.
There’s also “earth-sheltered” building. I saw one such from a distance in Pinconning, Michigan. I was surprised it turned out to be a church — Creation Care indeed.
The biggest Fuller Dome public building I saw was a rural Catholic church. Alas, a tornado damaged it beyond repair.
This isn’t about better A/C, which as vlade points out simply moves the heat around.
This is about significant areas becoming uninhabitable, and the social and cultural impacts of mass migration from the worst-hit areas. Scientists estimate that 1.5 billion people will be displaced due to unbearable heat by 2050. This elevates the risk of conflict significantly.
There have been some experiments with using massive amounts of thermal mass with a heat pump to average out seasonal temperatures. Heating the mass in the summer and cooling it in the winter. The costs are such that it is really only a select wealthy people solution.
Do you live in a Major Urban Heat Island city? If not, does your night-time air get cooler at night? Does it also get sort of low-humidity dry? If so, would air conditioning work more efficiently if run at night where you are?
Repurposing existing chiller systems as solar fired chillers is the only viable nearly carbon neutral air conditioning I know of. The chillers just need water, ammonia and heat to run and solar power can drive fans with existing motors, minimizing new manufacturing.
There is some new tech that would be required to really achieve efficiencies but the large carbon outlay for the main equipment is already in place with the next requirement being the collectivization of cooling: existing absorption coolers are gigantic compared to residential loads, a converted chiller could cool through pure solar maybe a hundred residential units. Depending on collective agreement on restraint, possibly many more.
But almost all the components for this already exist in a fair concentration in the commercial districts of most cities. The future of urban living, in my opinion, is about the reuse through the reconfiguration of all the materials, machines, technology and people already there.
For survival purposes, any town-load or city-load full of people could build itself a network of Emergency Cooling Centers evenly scattered around . . . denser where the population is denser . . . for people to cool off in during Death Valley Heat Waves.
Cities which understand the evolving Climate Reality can do that and other things like that.
Cities which don’t “believe in” man made global warming should be free to NOT do that if they so choose. And such cities should receive precisely ZERO disaster relief and assistance when they experience their Mass Heat-Stroke Death Waves from the man made global warming which they don’t “believe in”. Climate-change realists who don’t wish to be hostage to the fate of the Climate Denialist Cities should move into Climate Realist cities. The Climate Realist cities should help them make that move, if possible.
Any Climate Denialists living in Climate Realist jurisdictions should be encouraged in the strongest possible terms to move to the Climate Denialist jurisdiction of their choice.
It is time to adopt a major change in architecture, and go where the temperatures are moderate all year round – which is about 10m down.
A typical base temperature might be 17 degrees +/- 2 degrees – already fairly comfortable, and a small amount of heat from people and devices might bring that pretty close to a nearly ideal 20 degrees ‘for free’ as a side effect of other necessary functions.
There is some example data here:
Apologies for the units, I will try to find an alternate reference for those living in most of the world.
If we did this, it would also free up the surface for trees, natural carbon capture, farming, roads, railroads, powerlines, and other necessities, without using it to warehouse humans, asleep or chained to a desk. That would also help with excessive water runoff due to covering the land with buildings and other constructions, good for reducing flooding, restoring water tables, etc.
Something conceptually similar could be done underwater, with several differing advantages and disadvantages. Mean temperatures would be significantly driven by location and climate in that case, and could probably range from almost 0 to 30 degrees, but in most cases I would think that 10 to 25 degrees would be more common (handwaved guess, could well be wrong, based on water I have been diving in).
Properly built, you get a huge break on heating and cooling, protection from everything from lightning to tornadoes to floods, as well as odd things like Carrington type events and nuclear fallout.
A more unconstrained layout for supporting infrastructure should make it easier to build and maintain, lowering cost and improving efficiency. You can even site your main airport over the city centre, and make it as big as it needs to be, without noise problems or transportation issues, reducing still more inefficiencies.
Heat in France : plastic is literally melting (via Twitter)
With these extreme temperatures, extremes measures are going to have to be taken. Probably for housing, cooling will be a more a matter of passive construction rather than depend on air-conditioning which may or may not be reliable. That may mean very thick walls or maybe having house be constructed so that will be more underground, hobbit style. This is not a new idea and you see many examples from around the world-
This form of building may also give protection against extreme winds, storms and the like though it will not be appropriate for all areas because of other factors like flooding. The point is that humans have lived with extreme heat in the past and have worked out various solutions to it so perhaps some of these old ideas should be re-looked at again.
With modern methods & technology, it wouldn’t be all that difficult to create caves out of bedrock where applicable, makes it a lot easier than having to look for a natural one.
The key difference being that most caves i’ve been in have water coursing through them, you’d merely be making living caverns that are naturally heat safe.
Reminds me of those cave houses in parts of Spain.
Otherwise, we have a habitable-sized basement in our house here in Los Angeles, and it remains cool, even during the worst heat spells. But the rats like it so it’s not really an option.
The wealthy are taking various steps to prepare, including this underground bunker near Kansas City, MO
Would it be possible to seal it off against the rats? Would it be possible to dry up every last crumb of food which the rats feed on? Starve the rats out of existence?
When the Death Valley Heat Waves come to your neighborhood, these will become genuine survival questions.
Or maybe, when you are driven to seek thermal shelter in your basement, you could put food and water for the rats in some far corner of the basement to keep them away from the rest of the basement. Or make part of the basement into a rat-free safe room which the rats can’t get into.
Thanks for the tips :)
We’ve tried various different strategies to eradicate the rats. It’s not possible to seal off the basement against them. For one thing, the basement has air grates for ventilation, and it would be ill-advised to seal these off, even if it were possible. Rats can chew through most building materials. The thing is, rats are all over southern California. There are “tree” rats, which are gray with white stomachs, and rather cute. There are also what appear to be “norwegian” rats, which are not cute at all. I have bird feeders around and these surely are an attractant. But my husband has lived here longer than I and said there were always rats, so I don’t feel responsible. Supposedly, if deprived of food, rats will resort to eating stucco, wood, etc. The only way to eradicate rats is to create a dead zone. There are some people on my block who have done this. It comes at a terrible cost: the rodenticides used now are incredibly toxic and even worse than the anti-coagulants that are now banned in California. The rodenticide gets into the food chain and kills raccoons, skunks, coyotes, mountain lions, and owls. So we just have to live with the rats.
April 2019 “a 3-year-old mountain lion has died in the Santa Monica Mountains after being infected with rat poison, National Park Service officials…”
Well, they really aren’t for-sure tips, just hopeful suggestions. Maybe they will spur thought about something which really can be done.
Or maybe one simply accepts coolness-survival-WITH-rats down in the basement as an acceptable alternative to heat-death-withOUT-rats up on the surface.
Not if the building trades have their way .. They’ll likely do what they’ve ALWAYS done, which is to build cheaply constructed, ersatz balloon-frame homes, en mass .. with nary a thought towards truly innovative design/construction .. unless mandated by the force of law, at least here in the States !! Imagine seeing whole communities of comfortable, energy efficient & solidly constructed passive solar thermal structures, for homes and business …
THEY sure as hell CAN’T !
A lot of press coverage of this new UCS report focuses on cities. I wonder about the effects on rural areas. Admittedly, they don’t suffer from the urban heat island effect, but if they become effectively uninhabitable, what does that bode for future food security?
If those rural areas are also agricultural they will take a significant hit, probably sooner rather than later. Here in Iowa, May saw so much flooding that planting was delayed in part to well up to the cut-off date. Some fields weren’t planted at all and many look weeks behind what they should in growth.
In terms of heat, it’s not been unusually hot here, but once significant increases begin it would take awhile for summers here to begin to equal what they are in the South. Of course, again, it will be the crops that take the hit before people. Humans in Iowa can survive in Louisiana-style heat, just not the local ag industry.
Who knows, maybe my grandchildren will live to see Des Moines proclaimed as the cotton capital of the world.
I was thinking more of the agricultural workers. Even assuming there are crops to plant and harvest, who will be able to do this in dangerous or unlivable combinations of high temperature and high humidity? Some crops can be managed from the cabins of giant tractors, which could have air-con added or upgraded. What about labour-intensive crops? Who will tend and harvest them? The US might run out of the migrant workers it relies on if they all start dying in the fields.
Yes, I wasn’t thinking of vegetables or other hand-picked crops that require hand-labor. My reference was really only to Iowa where most of the massive farm equipment is air-conditioned with dolby stereos, gps, the whole works.
Actually, I forgot that many students get hired for a few weeks stretch in the summer to de-tassel the corn by hand. It’s known as a hot, nasty job and will undoubtedly get worse.
The true neo-liberal solution to that problem will be to genetically engineer heat tolerant farm workers.
The average age of a field worker in the Central Valley is 45, not as if newly minted adults are refilling the ranks from down under.
“What about labour-intensive crops?”
We have been redesigning both the equipment and the crops to make them less labour intensive for a long long time now – depending on how you define things, for somewhere between centuries and millenia (the original corn, wheat, bannana, etc. did not look like the modern varieties).
For example, some fruit has been modified to make it amenable to (stupid) machine picking… it is less likely to break or be damaged by the processes involved.
On the other hand, work is progressing apace on ‘smart’ picking machines using visual recognition and adaptive algorithms to pick things that need or needed human pickers.
Depending on the needs of the plants, other agriculture may move into climate controlled greenhouses, where light, humidity, nutrients, water, and temperature are all optimized for each crop. When picking time comes, you can adjust for worker comfort and efficiency.
I suspect agricultural productivity will continue to increase substantially, driven by developments in several fields.
Your comment points to another unhappy portent. Food security is tied to weather. The flooding and heavy rainfall impacts crop yields. The heat waves and lack of rainfall does as well, and the ground aquifers, supplying irrigation water to many of the rural areas with crops wilting in the heat waves, are near depletion as Wukchumni has pointed out in past comments. Food security is crucial to the stability of human societies.
The heat waves also make the growing shortages of fresh water more painful, even as they make suffers more aggressive. Business as usual promises a rough ride for the future.
If California reduced its focus on growing pleasure-food for export beyond California, and increased its focus on growing survival food for the people of California; could California still feed itself in the coming hot times?
How much mesquite beans and screwbeans could be grown on California’s best farmland with just a fraction of the water currently used to grow lettuce and almonds and other water-hog pleasure foods? Could Californians learn to love a screwbean?
Screwbeans! its what’s for dinner.
I’m calling it right now: 2019 is not going to be a good vintage year in Burgundy or Bordeaux.
Southern Oregon coast here. Not too worried about rising temps locally. Worried about Cascadia Event and can I scoot up the hill fast enough to avoid the tsunami? What about my cat?
What’s the plan when a rare summer easterly pushes a forest fire into Gold Beach?
Anchor in the middle of the Rogue River or put out to sea, I guess. A few years ago it reached 108 F in Brookings (!) and all the locals checked into air-conditioned motels. The paper had one motel-owning couple with the wife crowing “My husband didn’t want to put in AC but I insisted.” No word on whether they’re still married.
Michael Mann is the first interviewee I’ve seen who acknowledges the backed up jet stream and its effects on temperature. And flooding. The jet stream is like the gulf gulf stream for the northern hemisphere. I used to think “rheumatism” was nonsense but now I’m in my 70s I realize it is very real. The humidity and air pressure can have a miserable effect, summer or winter. Now, when a clear day comes along I always feel 20 years younger. The whole planet is gonna have rheumatism. Among other miseries. I’d like to hear someone evaluate the possible low energy fixes to these heat waves. They usually require low humidity.
Donate $1 to Jay Inslee to get him in the climate forum because he’s not going to make it and time runs out this month, in a few days.
I am more radical than Inslee by far, but he’s making great points (great los angeles times piece on him recently), that can’t keep up with the level of crisis of course, nothing can, but he’s taking a lot of it in.
Grew up in St Louis suburbs where we fried eggs on the street as science experiment and wore flip flops which got stuck in the melted tar on the streets. When it was hot and the couple room air conditioners weren’t enough, we played in the basement in front of a fan and drank lemonade. When my friends started getting first apartments, a small bedroom air conditioner was purchased before a television set as a necessity. Friends in Chicago reported same conditions. Phoenix metro having below average summer temps. My brother is in Eastern Poland this summer reporting cold and rainy summer. The hysteria over the summer heat is blown out of proportion with weather reporters hysteria over “real feel” temps similar to “wind chill” numbers in a Minnesota winter (lived there, too). Europe story? A few countries hotter than normal but the rest of the continent, not so much. Drama drama drama. I am 65.
it’s hotter now than it was, globally speaking, when you were growing up. the fact that it isn’t uniform does not mean the increasing temps are an example of “drama drama drama”. the climate is changing, which means the weather is changing, too.
I lived to be nearly 40 and never saw a U.K. maximum temperature of over 100F. I’m not fifty yet and now it’s happened twice. As I said above, the U.K. doesn’t have a desert climate zone, it’s marine so you get, as the original post points out, humidity. And it shares a latitude with Maine so it’s not like I’m talking about a sunbelt state here. When I go back to Japan, Tokyo’s notorious hot and humid summers don’t seem, to me now, anything that I’m not getting in London for at least a few weeks of the year, often a month or more.
I am not being dramatic here, merely relaying what I am experiencing.
Shares a latitude with Maine? I may be missing something, but, FWIW, the southern most latitude for UK unless perhaps we are talking about the channel islands (and that is not that much different) is about 50 degrees north of the equator which, if you follow it across the Atlantic, passes about 100 to 200 miles north of the northern most tip of Maine. One never thinks of it that way, but Maine is aligned with a good part of France and Massachusetts is aligned (latitude wise) with Northern Portugal/Spain.
I note in passing that maps, particularly global maps with lattitudes seem to have gotten harder to find on the net.
Everything non-commercial has become harder to find on the internet.
Oh for the days of the Arpanet and the Well.
Recent European weather reporters’ so-called hysteria was mainly over actual temperatures, which broke several all-time records.
This article was about a UCS paper called Killer Heat in the United States – Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days. Real feel / wet-bulb / heat index / feels like temperatures aren’t just about feeling uncomfortable or sexing up the weather forecasts. Humans cannot survive for long in high enough temperature and humidity combined. “by midcentury (2036–2065) … More than one-third of the area of the United States will experience heat conditions once per year, on average, that are so extreme they exceed the current NWS heat index range—that is, they are literally off the charts.” and “Late in the century (2070–2099), with no action to reduce heat-trapping emissions, the following changes can be expected: … At least once per year, on average, more than 60 percent of the United States by area will experience off-the-charts conditions that exceed the NWS heat index range and present mortal danger to people.”
You are a mammal. Your life and well-being require that your body temperature remain within a certain range of temperatures. You sweat to get rid of excess heat resulting from exercise, or just sitting in a chair as you burn calories, or heat you are subject to because of sunlight shining on your skin or clothing. Some of the combined temperatures and humidity levels predicted for future heat waves are nearing the point where you cannot lose heat by sweating, no matter how much you might sweat. So, no matter how much you might congratulate your toughness in dealing with past — emphasis on ‘past’ — heat waves that past does not predict how you might deal with the heat waves of the future.
Chicago is about 115 degrees hotter today than 6 months ago!
The report does not contain any really new results. The results were derived from a special refinement of the results from 18 standard climate models that obtained greater resolution of data for the United States. Two aspects of this report are troubling — its topicality: using the moment to emphasize and make people aware of results already reported elsewhere and the evident need for such topicality to make people aware of these results. (Ref. the Appendix section of the report starting on page 32 [ https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2019/07/killer-heat-analysis-full-report.pdf ])
I see no reference to the topicality or timing of publication in the Appendix.
True, the report was released in summer, which may have been a deliberate choice. But I first heard of it around July 16th, prior to the recent record breaking European heat wave. If the authors anticipated that, it only goes to show there is something to their models and predictions I’d have thought.
The topicality of the report IS its timing to the summer heat. Record breaking heat is just a bonus adding to the hoped for impact of the report. The Appendix details methodology and states in its first paragraph:
“This analysis uses a set of 18 climate models to project changes in the heat index in the coming decades. Each
model was originally developed to cover the whole globe at a low resolution…” “…statistically downscaled the models using the Multivariate Adaptive Constructed Analogs method (MACA) to cover the contiguous United States at a much higher resolution and optimized them to best match the climate of the United
States.” [p. 32]
I read that as saying in so many words this is a refinement of previous work and nowhere does the report claim new results. It does make a concerted effort to make the results concrete if they weren’t already. Were you previously unaware that we can expect killer heat waves for the future?
Sorry, I thought you meant the report had been timed to tie in with the recent record breaking European heat wave.
You’re absolutely right, it says nothing new.
I have been studying Walter Jehne, and his message is very hopeful. Makes me even more excited about gardening in such a way as to mitigate warming. If you have never heard of him, I would recommend any of his long videos on youtube. Here’s one: https://youtu.be/123y7jDdbfY
Do you suppose city heat will become so unbearable that it will create a mass exodus of people away from the cities, redistribute the population, a return to the towns and rural communities? That would be a good thing, I think…
General Circulation Models project Tropical and Sub-Tropical climate zones to expand poleward as global warming proceeds. The Tropics are already about as hot and humid as they can get, but the drier and colder regions of the globe will become warmer and wetter thus raising the global average. Now it is my understanding that the Tropics are habitable, and in fact many people from cold, dry Upstate NY have actually chosen to vacation and eventually move to such regions. Adaptation seems to be possible as long as the necessary infrastructure is in place. Rather than stressing on carbon emissions, which are not likely to slow until fossil fuels start actually running out, we should be concentrating on building out the world wide infrastructure that will ease adaptation to the warmer climate.
Carbon skydumping is raising the carbonic acid level in the oceans and seas. We call this Ocean Acidification and enough of it will degrade or destroy the Ocean Ecosystems which grow all our most favorite seafood.
So there is a separate and co-equal reason to stress about carbon emissions. ( And the failure to achieve some serious plant-driven skycarbon suckdown).