Much of the U.S. Could Be Uninhabitable by 2050

Yves here. We’ve previously discussed long-term forecasts of the impact of climate change in the US. They’ve included analyses of how increases in humidity and heat will render parts of the US uninhabitable due to outdoor conditions in the summer being a serious health hazard. And that’s before you get to the impact on agriculture…..

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

Humans die when it gets too hot; that barely merits saying. But how hot is too hot, and how fast does “too hot” catch up to them?

The answer is important because much of the country in specific, and of the world in general, is going to be too hot fast, thanks to climate change.

First, let’s look at what “too hot” means, then at what parts of the U.S. will shortly become uninhabitable. Along the way, we’ll see what change in U.S. food production will inevitably result, since heat will be a factor there as well.

How Hot Is “Too Hot”?

Human core body temperature, the temperature on the inside of our bodies, usually stays in the range of 36.5–37.5°C (97.7–99.5°F), and must stay in this range to ensure long-term survival. Bodies have a number of mechanisms for regulating core temperature. One the most important is the production of sweat on the surface of the skin which, when it evaporates, cools the body.

The amount of evaporation from the skin is, naturally, a function of the humidity and circulation of the air around the body. So by definition, at 100% humidity and no air circulation (no wind), evaporation is impossible. (“100% humidity” means the air is already saturated with as much moisture as it can hold; no more can be added, so the sweat just stays on the skin, making us sticky instead of cool.)

There have been many attempts to measure human survivability at various combinations of temperature and humidity, both with bodies at rest and bodies doing work — exercising, for example, or cleaning the gutters. The usual way to measure what core body temperature will result from a given combination of heat, humidity, wind, and other factors is by using a wet-bulb thermometer to measure the “wet-bulb temperature.” A more refined version of the web-bulb temperature is the “wet bulb globe temperature” (WBGT).

All you need to know is this: A “web bulb” is basically the bulb of a thermometer with wet muslin around it, simulating the core of a human body (the bulb) with wet skin around it (the muslin). If the water in the muslin is able to evaporate, the temperature of the bulb will be lower than the temperature of the outside air. If water in the muslin can’t evaporate (at 100% humidity and no wind, for example) the temperature of the bulb can’t be lowered.

For humans, the web-bulb temperature of an environment shouldn’t be much greater than our normal core body temperature; if it is, the environment will endanger the people experiencing it. It’s a given among scientists that a web-bulb temperature of 95°F (35°C) is the upper limit of extended human endurability. Anything above that and after a short while, people need to stop working, go indoors or into the shade, or find some air-conditioned place to continue their activities.

Consider the chart below from a 2004 study, “Extremes of human heat tolerance: Life at the precipice of thermoregulatory failure,” by William Kenney et al. Note the temperature point (X-axis) at which human core temperature stops being stable and begins rising out of control (Y-axis).

In this graph, MDI on the X-axis is a proxy for WBGT. The Y-axis shows a rate of increase in core temperature per hour. Assuming no ability of the body to cool itself, outside temperatures above 35°C (95°F) will cause overheating, and as you can see, the hotter it is, the faster the body’s core temperature rises. At a wet-bulb temperature of 40°C (104°F), core body temperature rises two to three degrees every hour. At higher temperatures, it rises faster.

Now consider the chart below, Figure 3 from the same study.

This one graphs the equivalent of WBGT (the X-axis) against human tolerance of it in minutes (the Y-axis). Note that at wet-bulb temperatures of 35°C (95°F), bodies doing work will last less than two hours before exhaustion. At 40°C (104°F), the time to exhaustion is less than an hour. In Baghdad just this year, outside temperatures reached 125°F. Worse is coming.

The graph shows time-to-exhaustion. It’s almost ghoulish to ask time-to-death, but that’s not hard to figure from these charts.

Hyperthermia (overheating) is considered life-threateningwhen core body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C). From the first chart above (Figure 2 of the study), an outside wet-bulb temperature of 40°C will raise the core temperature of a body doing work — trying to build a house, for example, or a renewable energy power station — at a rate of 3°C per hour.

In other words, after three hours of work in those conditions, most healthy, non-elderly people will experience a medical emergency due to a rise in core body temperature. If the outside temperature is higher, the medical emergency comes sooner. Untreated, disability and death are the likely results.

The Climate Connection

This is a climate piece, so let’s apply what we know. The following chart shows weeks per year of ambient temperatures above 35°C (95°F) for counties in the U.S. if we continue to burn fossil fuels at a business-as-usual rate. The darker the red, the more weeks per year of these temperatures. (The source is a recent ProPublica piece entitled “New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States.”)

The eye notices the dark red — for example, Phoenix, Arizona, with half a year of above-95° heat. But look at Kansas, with 8-11 weeks above 95 degrees. In Kansas, that’s the heart of the growing season, or was.

For comparison, this is the “niche” or ideal habitable zone in the U.S., the areas where temperature and rainfall have been most favorable to human habitation for the last 6,000 years.

And here’s where that favorable climate “niche zone” will move to by 2070 under business-as-usual conditions.

Don’t let the green in the map above fool you. Look again at the map with the red on it, the one showing weeks per year above 95 degrees. Much or most of the area below the “niche zone” will be uninhabitable without heavy use of electrically powered air conditioning, and to makeit habitable, people would have to work long hours outside, in unbearable temperatures, to add the infrastructure needed.

Under those conditions, and knowing things will only get worse, no one will invest a dime in making those areas livable. Nor will anyone move there. Those who can afford to move and change jobs will emigrate. Others will simply flee, like refugees.

Where will they go? What kind of country will we have when this occurs?

Is It Time to Say No and Mean It?

This is going to happen. We won’t have a president who takes climate change seriously enough to begin a Green New Deal, a massive enough climate-and-infrastructure project to deal with what’s coming, until 2024 at the earliest. Who knows who will be running things after that?

Sure Biden, Slayer of Trump, will do “something” about this problem — he has to be seen to do “something” — but the odds that he will do enough, barring a civil revolt against him, are zero. “Enough” is a very large ask, even though “enough” is just the minimum required.

Are you twenty years old today? By the time you’re fifty, much of the area on the map above will be uninhabited — abandoned and feral — while everyone from those regions will crowd north. The U.S. as you know it won’t exist; it will lose territorial integrity (as will China, by the way). Most of our food will come from Canada, if they still like us. And I’m willing to bet the Canadian border will be armed and patrolled — by Canadians.

Is civil revolt — not violence, mind you, but a massive series of general strikes and shutdowns— looking like a viable option all of a sudden? It is to me. It may in fact be the only one on the table.

How else do you propose we stop this killing machine we call our ruling class?

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  1. The Rev Kev

    Good article this and I would add two more threats here – one short term and one long term. Long term is the fact that the 100th meridian is slowly moving east. This is the boundary between the humid eastern United States and the arid Western plains and it is on the move at a rate of several miles a year and already covers a third of that “niche zone.” More importantly, the lands that this is encroaching on first is the bread basket for America which is not good-

    The second is the problem of water. The ancient Romans calculated the growth potential of a new city by how much water they could access and nothing has changed in 2,000 years. How is water to be maintained for a place like Las Vegas for example? Will some States allow drinkable water to leave their State borders for the benefit of another State? How do you grow crops without water?

    Just for some more doom and gloom, remember all that fracking that is and has been going on? Well they were pumping all sorts of toxic chemicals into the ground with highly secret ingredients because it was propriety information, dontcha know. So how many water sources have been poisoned with toxic chemicals and will no longer be available for drinking purposes?

    1. gyrocoptic

      -Seeking shade, while useful to reduce radiant energy exposure, will not benefit you if the wet bulb temperature is at or above 35C.

      – you have posted the wrong figures, or in the wrong location in the article.

      1. Hickory

        Indeed. The author also cited dry and wet temps interchangeably, such as the 125 F in Baghdad, which was dry.

        1. Larry Gilman

          The Baghdad temperature cited was perfectly relevant, since high temperatures in the Middle East are projected to be accompanied by increasing humidity, threatening habitability by the mechanism under discussion. E.g., : “[A] combination of increasing heat and humidity levels may ultimately render [the KSA] uninhabitable.” Full article at .

    2. Geo

      Thankfully, investment firms and bankers are buying up our water resources so markets “can solve the problem!” I feel better about the future you describe.

      “Familiar mega-banks and investing powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, and HSBC Bank, among others, are consolidating their control over water. Wealthy tycoons such as T. Boone Pickens, former President George H.W. Bush and his family, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Philippines’ Manuel V. Pangilinan and other Filipino billionaires, and others are also buying thousands of acres of land with aquifers, lakes, water rights, water utilities, and shares in water engineering and technology companies all over the world.”

      1. JWP

        This is how it’ll end, in the courts. Because of the ridiculous prior appropriation laws in the US, the events of water scarcity where the government needs to have control of water and infrastructure to allow people to live and grow food, will be struck down by the courts. It’s a race to who can buy up all the land in the mountains that feed the rivers and after that it’s lost. These water companies cannot physically build the necessary infrastructure to meet the water demand but will have the rights to the water, so it will sit while people die.

    3. d

      and on cant forget that a lot of water used for crops, etc, is under ground.snd what does fracking do? oh, it injects a special mix of chemicals. care to guess how that will work out?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It will work out just fine for those people who own water or water-shed-land in the No Frack Zones.

        Maybe it would be good to create a map of all the Frackable hydrocarbon zones like the Marcellus Shale, and all the zones where Fracking is already going on . . . and overlay that map onto the map of the Future less-heat still-survivable zone. That would show us what parts of the future survival zone will be rendered non-inhabitable because . . . uh oh . . . legacy frackwater all over the groundwater supply.

    4. Mike Elwin

      About a quarter of the towns in California’s Central Valley, more than a million people, have poisoned groundwater. The land formerly produced about a quarter of the US food supply. That number is shrinking as even the agri-rich are having to adapt.

      A byproduct of the past 100 years of withdrawing the water is that the land has sunk about 9 meters.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The thing about all that food from California . . . it is all the fun food. It is not the brute survival food.
        Michigan, for example, can produce all the cabbage and potatoes that Michiganders need to brute-survive on. What Michigan can’t produce is all the artichokes and salad and avocadoes and pistacios and etc. to really have fun with.

        So the death of California as a food-growing zone may mean the death of enjoyable food. But it won’t mean the death of brute survival food. We will just have to become more creative with ways to cook cabbage and potatoes. Sauerkraut and potato pie, for instance. Potato cake with cabbage frosting. etc.

        1. clarky90

          Finally, the “plant based diet” that “we” all have been dreaming of! Potatoes with a bit of cabbage on the side…… yum. “We” are jumping into a wonderful time machine and traveling to a bygone era!

          Buckle up buckaroos!

  2. Janie

    The archdruid John Michael Greer wrote a futuristic dystopian novel, “The Ruin Man”, centered on the area around Cincinnati. Rivers will again be the roads, as roads deteriorate.

    Setting aside the extraterrestrial part, he may have been pretty spot on. The country has broken apart, and his characters have no knowledge of what’s happening west of the great plains – too hot to travel. No bridges – hand-lined ferries. Mining ruins for anything useful. Return of guilds. Loss of knowledge. Et cetera

    Thanks, I think, for posting this. My family thinks I’m too pessimistic, but I may be a cockeyed optimist in the long run. Strike that – may be no long run.

    1. ambrit

      There will be a “long run,” but, as someone Lambert quotes with some regularity says, it will “not be evenly distributed.”

    2. polecat

      I believe the the title of the novel you’re referring to is “STARS REACH” ..
      Re-reading it now, for the third time. Who knows how things’ll shake out centuries from now. And I don’t buy the premise that some are presenting, that – ‘OMG!! We’re ALL GONNA DIE!!!

      Humans, including their predecessors, have been around a few benders and jumped numerous hurdles over the eons they’ve treaded on this orb. People in the main, have this weird static view of life and physical processes that are predicated on absolutely NO CHANGE! … Sorry to say folks, but Gaia don’t work that way …She’s always in motion, As Are We.
      So my premise is: Evolve – or be subsumed by something more adaptable .. and by that, I don’t mean any of the God of PROGRESS tech solutions being bandied about by our vaunted (and deluded) wunderkind.

      All that wishful ruby slipper tapping ain’t gonna change the main fact of ‘life’ – ‘we’ … are not control. The Planet is!

      1. Janie

        Yes, Stars Reach! Sorry, it’s been a while. The interesting part to me was how people managed the decline, the geographic changes and, of course, the bits of humor. Example for those who haven’t read it:
        Buskers at markets wore flashy velvet, sang and played stringed instruments. They were known as Traveling Elwuses. No one knew their origin

        1. polecat

          Ah yes, The Traveling elwuses. The book’s kind of a kick that way. The story’s totally plausible, if one considers how faiths, mores, knowledge (+ or –), and the drift of history/events coming down the line can cause civilizational changes over centuries. Add some modern tech regression into the mix, and there ya go.

          Gotta get around to reading Retrotopia someday.

  3. Mark

    Did I just miss it or am I correct in saying this piece suddenly leapt between comparing habitable ‘wet-bulb’ temperatures into non ‘wet-bulb’ temperatures, aka air temp. This leap leads to the massively overstated conclusion.

    It seems pretty poor especially given the length of time it spent explaining to the reader what ‘wet-bulb’ temps are.

    I’m not suggesting the outlook is rosy. Just that it is slightly less dire and that misteps in analysis doesn’t do the argument justice

    1. Greg

      Yes, it does rather look like that is what happens between the human temp charts and the geographic charts.

      I think we should be assuming that humidity will be high in coastal areas, and those coastal areas will have high air temps, hence high wet bulb temps likely. But without those humidity projections to go with the air temp projections, the argument is incomplete and weakened.
      Fairly sure CHELSA and other climate projection models include humidity in their models, so the data is probably easy enough to include.

      ETA: The source linked at the start does actually follow the heat map with a humidity/heat map

    2. vlade

      Absolutely, the article jumps around.

      Most people have no idea what sort of experience they need to associate with WB of 35C. 35C (air temp in shade) in Sahara is not anything like WB of 35 – in fact, in places like Sahara, humans can (and did, for millenia) deal with much higher temperatures.

      It’s places like Mexico or Persian Gulf coastal areas that have high WB temeperatures. In the US, I’d think Florida, Texas and Gulf of Mexico states in general, maybe South Cal to some extent.

      Basically, it’s not only hot, it’s so humid you can’t sweat.

      1. ambrit

        That’s why I find it curious that the chart of weeks above 95 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures shows counties along the Gulf Coast, including where we particular NADSters live, as having fairly short extreme temperatures “seasons.” Is the “sea breeze” effect a big factor?
        What is more worrying to us is the night time temperatures. A hot night sets the human animal up to overheat more quickly the next day, or so I’ve experienced it.
        Another point of “trouble” will be urban ‘heat islands.’ I always experienced less trouble with overheating when working in rural settings. Doing the same amount of work in town led to more heat related breaks and more hydration breaks. The danger sign we all watched out for was the sudden cessation of urination during the work day.
        On some jobs during the hot season, we would set up a place where workers could be hosed down, clothes and all. Short of diving into a swimming pool, that provided relief quickest from advancing heat stroke.
        As can be seen from some of the above, there are ways of dealing with high temperatures on job sites. I’ve even worked on a job where the entire crew switched to working at night.

        1. vlade

          Yup. The reason why Spanish have a siesta is not because they are lazy gits (as often portrayed by the UK’s press), but because working between noon and 3pm is just dumb in that sort of climate. And other part of “siesta” is often working into late evening.

          1. ambrit

            Yes, and din dins are also held later than we “civilized” cultures entertain it.
            I remember visiting friends of the Cuban persuasion back when I lived in Miami and wrestling with adapting to having the main meal later then I grew up eating it.

            1. Janie

              After being a tourist all day in Spain, dinner at 10 is way too late. We always had tapas and called it a night.

            1. polecat

              Evidently we don’t count … I mean, California – Of Course its’ slid oceanside, taking Vegas with it! That’s to be expected .. but OWIMBC?? C’mon! For Gaia’s sake, we’ve got Killer Whales to nurture!

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        Texas, currently, east of I-35, and within 150 miles or so of the coast, is where the humidity gets intolerable…but even that depends on other things: what you’re doing, amount of shade, time of day, etc.
        where i live, smack dab in the middle of the state, I find even august pretty tolerable…so long as i’ve got a cowboy pool to get into, a big tree to get under, and nobody with a whip making me work through the hottest part of the day.
        during those times, i often think about the old cartoon, speedy gonzales…making fun of siestas, white clothes and big straw hats.
        those things are essential for hot and dry times and places.
        some place like houston? in july?
        forget about working outside in the sun. after being out here for 25+ years, when i go back there in summer, i marvel that i used to do just that.
        and, too…especially in the hottest part of the year, i use my early-birdhood to great advantage…get a lot of stuff done well before noon, and chill the rest of the day.
        only electricity needed for pre-dawn is a led headlight.
        i worry more about the chickens and such during those times.

      3. Synoia

        It has been my experience that wet bulb temperatures over 95 deg F does not happen.

        I grew up in coastal Nigeria as a child, a hot and humid place, and the, temperatures did not go over about 95 deg F.

        And all took siesta after midday to about 3 pm.

        1. ObjectiveFunction

          I just reviewed 11 years of Singapore data (a low lying marshy island within 150km of the equator, with relative humidity rarely below 50% and routinely above 85%). What they used to call a ‘tropical pesthole’.

          Wet bulb has never exceeded 29.5C (85F) in that time, and more typically floats around 25 during an average day. Yes, there are local microconditions where you can get well above this and the air literally feels liquid, but it’s easy enough to move out of.

          As others have noted above, it’s quite urgent to modify our species’ dramatic alteration of our planet’s climate dynamics. But we must not distort facts simply to fuel a panic, on the grounds that ‘we must act NOW’. That’s the kind of reasoning a 16 year old would employ…. oh, wait.

          Panic and wilful ignorance merely plays into the hands of our big tech overlords, subsidizing elaborate gimmicks while ignoring the actual changes we will all need to make in our collective and individual activities, sooner or later.

    3. Larry Gilman

      The ProPublica study that this article points to is indeed about temperature, humidity, and the limits on survivable wet-bulb temperature, as a quick look at the supplied link confirms. The author did not jump senselessly from the subject of wet-bulb survivability to a temperature-only study. For those who missed it, it’s here:

    1. vlade

      Greenland was called Greenland by Eric the Red as a PR when he was trying to persuade settlers from Iceland to move there. Fall of Civilizations podcast has a great episode on it.

      1. Janie

        Lying to warriors about the land you are taking them to is a really bad idea. See below, West Viking reference. Good book. My comment collided in time with yours and got bumped below :-)

        1. vlade

          TBH (again, going on FoC info), I’m not sure how much they minded in the end (those that survived the journey, IIRC it was about 5 out of 12 ships), as Greenland was much richer than Iceland in the end, due to all the walruss ivory.

        1. divadab

          Yes – on the west coast of Greenland, it was warm enough to harvest hay to feed livestock over the winter when the Vikings colonized it. Their cash crop was walrus ivory. However, the little ice age (14th century IIRC?) made haymaking impossible so the vikings packed up and left, leaving their stone buildings behind but taking their animals and household goods.

      2. Jeff W

        Fall of Civilizations podcast has a great episode on it.

        All the Fall of Civilizations podcasts are excellent. I particularly liked the episode on Easter Island and the one on the Aztecs. (Even the URLs are uniquely cool.)

        1. vlade

          Yes, but I sell them (well, not sell, I have no connection to the podcast except thinking it’s excellent, promote/mention) episode by episode :).

          I’ve listened to Han China recently, after listening to the Romance of Three Kingdom podcast for a while, which is great too.

      3. Harry

        One of the earliest real estate cons.

        Erik “in the red” would have been closer to the truth.

        And as for calling Labrador “Vinland”. Utterly shameless!

        1. vlade

          For a chap whose father was exiled from Norway, and he himself from Iceland, not a bad result – one of the most sucessfull one-man-band PR efforts ever. Think how much anyone would have to pay for the naming rights to the largest island..

      4. Phil in KC

        Yes, but Greenland’s climate was different a thousand years ago to the extent that colonists were able to keep cows and herds, so grass and other vegetation must have been relatively abundant compared to today. Lief didn’t have to fib very much. But yes, Greenland could easily green up again.

    1. vlade

      WB in Riyadh is not near 35C. See my comments above, and yes, I agree that the article does not expain well how people should relate to 35C WB.

  4. Halcyon (formerly AnonyMouse)

    I don’t know where you get the claim that RCP8.5 has been dismissed by “the IPCC”, but I certainly agree with you that it’s a very unrealistic scenario that would rely either on a substantial ramping up of emissions, especially from coal, or natural carbon cycle feedbacks far in excess of what anyone expects can happen.

    1. apleb

      Have the sibirian and canadian tundras thawing up, the methane clathrates thawing up in the sea taken into account? Or is them thawing a lower pathway?

    2. GC54

      Dismissed too strong … “discouraged to policy makers” is what I’m hearing from climatologists who are involved with drafting the upcoming IPCC assessment. Indeed, emphasis has shifted from excessive coal use to the impact of expanded methane leakage, so the damping effect is more on the Extended Concentration Pathways (ECPs) that go beyond 2100 so are less encumbered by the RCP’s economical fantasies.

      1. apleb

        Isn’t it more like that coal is on the out on its own anyway, so no need to emphasize it: it dies on its own quite well, thank you.

        Instead focus on methane aka natural gas, which a tremendous growth industry right now with all that entails just like coal is in rapid decline. On the purely human side, fracking causes lots of methane leakage as does normal drilling for gas e.g. in Russia for export purposes. Then the natural causes in the thawing permafrost and the clathrates on the horizon.

          1. apleb

            world wide coal use is going down for at least 5 years now.

            And regenerative gets cheaper and cheaper all the time, for sunny countries like India, coal is probably already more expensive to produce. The only downside solar power is India would need to buy the panels from China.

            Power stations which aren’t actually standing and producing already, seem to be lots of brinksmanship and bragadoccio “we will build new power station since we’re growing economically like the plague. We will be the next super power empire!”. This is most evident with nuclear power, but is applicable to all of them me thinks since electrical power equals progress. Building electrical power stations is therefore the most important thing for progress.

            If you then check back after a few years it’s mostly unfinished ruins, plants planned but never even started and a few fairly lonely working plants if that.

  5. Keith in Modesto

    Just to add to the comments about this article switching between wet-bulb temperature and ambient temperature with little explanation, the original article at the Down with Tyranny website includes an additional graphic showing a map of the habitable zone (deep green color) in the US in 2070 under a business-as-usual (high carbon emissions) scenario, which is missing from this article on Naked Capitalism.

  6. Edward

    I think that the bottom line with this and other problems is people need to change the way they think. We need a culture that values the public good and takes seriously abstract problems that are not immediately a crisis. As another post pointed out, America has become the dysfunctional “can’t do” nation.

  7. KLG

    We are cooked, but having grown up in the “wet heat” of the Southeast, where these July-August days it does get so hot that with the ambient humidity sweating does not work as intended, I am most familiar with “wet bulb” temperature. 98F in Central Georgia and 98F in Tucson or Austin are not nearly the same, as long you have enough water to drink and are wearing a hat out west. “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat” really does make a difference, perhaps up to 105-110F. I say this as a golfer with an aversion to the motorized golf cart, which is a peculiar American perversion of the game. I can walk all day in Tucson (with hat and water and a longsleeve undershirt that wicks sweat) and have the golf course to myself ;-) In Georgia, not so much. And this has changed noticeably since the mid-1980s.

    1. Gc54

      Yes, I can work effectively in the summer shade in Tucson up to about 110 F air temp with a fan that desiccates me blowing. But this past grim AZ summer my laptop’s capacitors blew in that environment, lesson learned with a motherboard replacement. (Static electricity being the other killer at 5% RH.)

    2. Rod

      And this has changed noticeably since the mid-1980s.

      This SC summer we had 29 days straight of 90+ with half above 94 and two at 99+. This was the first time since 1991/92??(a worse year though, as temps hit 100+ for 6 or 7 days).
      That summer of 91/92 I bought a big dial Thermometer for the Jobsite. We would monitor it in the shade during the morning then put it into the Sun at lunch time. If the shade/sun spread was 25 degrees or more or the in the sun reading 120+ we would drag up. I caught lots of Contractor grief and I remember our crew getting shamed for not working through it like “the Mexicans”. Roof Framing was dicey because of sweat in the eyes– constantly.
      I remember the nighttime offered little reprieve and in the morning usually all the Van tools and the House Frame were warm to the touch. Roofers worked under the lights at night. The air, to me, felt like it had no oxygen in it to breath.
      I hoped to never have to work in those conditions again–and didn’t until this recent summer 29 years later.
      I believe that summer turned my consciousness to the burgeoning concept of Global Warming—
      Now known as the Climate Crises. Indeed…

      For the past several years though, the Sun itself feels ‘burny’ to my exposed skin–very akin to using a magnifying glass to cast the sun on exposed skin. It is uncomfortable and very unsettling for me.

      And that is why I like the Blunt title of this Article—Much of the U.S. Could Be Uninhabitable by 2050— because it gets to the critical point ASAP.
      And the text(despite dry/wet bulb kerfuffle) ends on a positive note–IMO–(my bold)

      Is civil revolt — not violence, mind you, but a massive series of general strikes and shutdowns— looking like a viable option all of a sudden? It is to me. It may in fact be the only one on the table.

      How else do you propose we stop this killing machine we call our ruling class?

  8. southern appalachian

    I’ve been thinking this sort of difficulty will hit the Persian Gulf region first; already hitting days where it’s not safe. Bahrain, UAE, Iran. Parts of India as well. Companies will have to use robots or something at the ports, I’m guessing. I don’t know. People won’t be able to work.

    In the end it will be migration and refugees- unwrapped: for a long time talking to skeptics, it’s as if they are waiting for this one event or one day when the climate flips, and when it does not happen or there’s a nice day they say it’s all a hoax. So what will happen is increased environmental degradation and then forced migration, and that will be the big destabilizing thing.

  9. Lou Mannheim

    I lived in Austin TX for 18 months recently – as someone from the NE it was unbearable from June through September. You rationalize that you can do your “outside stuff” before noon or so, but it just didn’t work for me. Add a citywide water contamination and a guy randomly blowing people up, and I said ciao!

    If you believe the science and frankly your own anecdotal evidence, it would make sense to head north. There are going to be some awkward conversations with our northern neighbors.

  10. russell1200

    Minor correction

    Auto correct changed “wet bulb” to “web bulb” in a number of places.

    Not a big deal, but outside of the HVAC crowd, I am assuming many have not seen the term before.

    FWIW Wikipedia hyphenates it : The wet-bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be reached under current ambient conditions by the evaporation of water only.

  11. Wukchumni

    Once upon a time before it was called the USA, the Anasazi in Chaco Canyon were by far the most ambitious builders, none of this tipi stuff or living rough, they constructed apartment complexes 4 to 5 stories tall with 400 rooms, with deep wide kivas outside the Great Houses and more. To get the timbering they needed to make the structures sound, trees were cut down 50 miles away and delivered by foot. You can still see these today spread throughout the Great Houses, with the last ones dating around 1100-1120 AD, and like us their culture was past peak and on the descent when a 50 year long drought came calling in 1130. They stuck it out for a decade, but then up and vanished by 1140.

    These structures were the largest buildings in the USA until the 19th century

    And it wasn’t just central New Mexico that was feeling the lash from lack of rain, California was in the midst of a 150+/- year long drought as well, the whole southwest was in play.

    Watching things now in the SW, Arizona is the cardinal in the coal mine, 2 straight years of lack of monsoons spell trouble, combined with how dried up the west is in general, with Oregon & Washington both surprise players.

    If our recent 5 year drought had gone a decade, the lions share of the state would’ve left, it was getting that dire.

    Similar to our antecedents in Chaco Canyon*, we’ll spread all over the place looking for a new home. They had to search on foot and there was a relatively tiny amount of them compared to our 330 million, and then as now, some tribes in other ‘states’ weren’t so keen on you showing and using their resources, Yo!, whadya think ya doin’ on my huntin’ grounds!

    *I urge a visit, simply a wonderful place

    1. Mike Elwin

      Visit Chaco Canyon? Not on your life. It’s a wretched place. No bathrooms. No rooms! Just the bare ground to sleep on. Stay away. 35 miles of corduroy road to get there,then just dust and heat and a souvenir stand. Awful! Stay away!

      1. Wukchumni

        Ha ha!

        Last time we were there, the one food/drink item you could buy in the whole place had an ‘out of order’ sign on the machine outside that in theory you could purchase a soft drink from.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Is Chaco Canyon the biggest building complex on Turtle Island before Western Civilization? There are suspicious stoneforms from much longer ago which some people think are simply too geometric and manmade-looking to be natural fracture zones.

      Here is one such, called Giant’s Playground, in Montana. Here is a video about it. Other videos can be found on line. It seems worthy of consideration.

  12. Paul Damascene

    As a Canadian, I sadly see no way in the world for Canada to maintain *its* territorial integrity if the US melts down to the South.

        1. polecat

          That’s the ticket! CONned into consuming All the twinnsy things that make this orb viable!

          “Pass the maggots, er, humons, will ya”

      1. Userfract

        Sadly, there’s no retreat North possible in Canada. Repeated glaciation has scraped all of the soil South, and what little exists on top of the Canadian Shield is the thin and acidic result of broken down lichen and conifers. The boreal forest isn’t a productive enough ecosystem to support dense human life, and then there’s the fire risk if things continue to dry out.

        The Hudson Bay lowlands are even worse. It’s the world’s biggest bog. There’s little solid ground to build on and it’s a maze of stagnant pools that stretches for 100s of kilometers. Just building one road or a railroad is prohibitively expensive, so sizeable cities would be right out of the question. In summer, the bugs are the stuff of legend.

        In winter, we are actually seeing colder conditions in Canada some of the time. Instability in the jet stream is letting more arctic air escape further South, and allowing more hot air to penetrate North, so we see big swings between very hot and humid conditions in summer and deep cold snaps in winter. This instability also leads to surprise early or late frosts. For example, we had frost three weeks earlier than historical averages here in Ottawa this year related to a body of cold air that escaped containment around the pole. Further North, even in a warmer world, you have a very short growing season with high risk of crop damage. Most of our food crops aren’t optimized for the kind of long summer days and short seasons seen in the North.

        We’ve been working on breeding hardier crops, and expanding into what fertile land is available, up here for a couple hundred years now. We’re not going to make enough progress on that in the next forty years to replace a significant portion of the agricultural productivity lost in temperate zones.

          1. Synoia

            He is sating that webbed and insulated feet, a thick seasonal coat of fur, and immunity to all mosquito borne diseases are required.

  13. Michael Fiorillo

    The information in the article might also partially explain why Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, has invested so much money in Detroit, beyond earning short-term profits.

    Think about it: a water-rich, warming region, with all infrastructure in place, that has become comparatively depopulated.

    Yeah, baby: go long Detroit, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Rochester and Duluth!

    1. rd

      I live in Upstate NY. Looking forward to my home becoming near the sea with North Carolina-like climate in 30 years.We don’t have to move south now. We can jsut wait for the south to come to us.

  14. Thomas Neuburger

    Thanks, everyone, as always for the comments.

    One point of clarification: I did not confuse / conflate ambient temperature with wet-bulb temperature in the climate discussion, though I understand the reason for the confusion. I could have added a few sentences of explanation to the key paragraph. In no way is the bottom line affected.

    The paragraph in question is this:

    Don’t let the green in the map above fool you. Look again at the map with the red on it, the one showing weeks per year above 95 degrees. Much or most of the area below the “niche zone” will be uninhabitable without heavy use of electrically powered air conditioning, and to makeit habitable, people would have to work long hours outside, in unbearable temperatures, to add the infrastructure needed.

    The reference to “above 95 degrees” does refer to ambient temperature. The key word is “above.” Temperatures in these regions are due to soar. As commenters here have pointed out, it’s hot already in Phoenix. Around the world, we’ve seen temperatures above 110° and as noted elsewhere in the piece, Baghdad saw 125° last August. The ability to work outside, even in “dry heat” will be greatly curtailed, exactly at the time large-scale infrastructure construction will be needed. And as the piece points out, who would finance it?

    But all that’s on me. As a result, I’ve added the following minimal correction to the versions at Substack and DWT (emphasis added):

    Don’t let the green in the map above fool you. Look again at the map with the red on it, the one showing weeks per year above 95 degrees. As ambient temperatures in those regions rise higher and higher, much or most of the area below the “niche zone” will be uninhabitable without heavy use of electrically powered air conditioning, and to make it habitable, people would have to work long hours outside, in unbearable temperatures, to add the infrastructure needed.

    If the piece were still in draft, I’d have extended the clarification. Thanks to the readers here for pointing that out. I do appreciate it.

    Two small corrections:

    1. Yes, “wet-bulb” somehow got autocorrected into “web-bulb.” Amazingly, none of the proofers I work with caught that. Again, thanks. Fixed as Substack and DWT.

    2. The article has five figures, not four. As someone pointed out, the last one is missing. Also, the four figures here are shifted down one position. (Easy mistake to make with this complex a piece. Figure-heavy articles are no fun to work with!)

    Here’s a link to the fifth figure. It goes where the last figure now appears, and shows just how far north the “niche zone” is predicted to move.

    Figure showing niche zone has moved into Canada

    It is this figure to which the paragraph I amended refers.

    Thanks again for your comments. Hope this helps!


    1. Janie

      Thank you very much for this article and your addendum. The next time someone says I’m too pessimistic, I’m gonna forward this.

  15. JTMcPhee

    There might be good news on at least one front: “US Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due To Climate Change, Report Commissioned by Pentagon Says,”

    Of course the infinite threat perception, creation and response bureaucracy of the Pentagram is all over the planning needed to avoid that outcome: “ Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,“ Details the opportunities for the MIC to dominate the climate change landscape, figuratively and literally.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, global warming death for Bangla Desh is Bangla Desh’s problem. But global warming death for India is the world’s problem because India has the A-bombs and missiles to MAKE it the world’s problem. And China has even MORE A-bombs and missiles to make heat death for China into the world’s problem.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Extorting permission to resettle hundreds of millions of Indians and hundreds of millions of Chinese on habitable lands.

          And if the current inhabitants of those habitable lands attempt to deny permission and deny entry, the A-bombs would be for revenge strikes all over the habitable lands which denied resettlement to the Heat Death Refugees. Because if the Heat Death Refugees are consigned and abandonded to Heat Die on their own, they won’t accept dying alone. They will want to take their consigners and abandoners with them. That is what the A-bombs will end up being for.

          ” We’ll all go together when we go.”

          Now . . . on the OTHer hand . . . if India/China really are thinking of resettlement by slow force, then they will be preparing biological attacks to exterminate the populations of the habitable lands in order to empty them for takeover.

  16. Susan C

    Not that I have much hope that permaculture on a massive scale will ever be instituted under the current rapacious economic system, but when I watch John D. Liu’s Regreening the Desert and similar videos (Geoff Lawton, for example) the pain in my heart is eased a little. Knowing we could repair the ecosystem means perhaps some day we will do so.

  17. sharonsj

    The 2004 Pentagon report on climate change–which got little coverage in the U.S.–said that global warming was a threat greater than terrorism because of mass migration and the ensuing wars over water and land. We already have water wars in the U.S. now. The 2018 Pentagon report was on the vulnerabilities to military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years. That one said almost all our installations would be gone.

    Other reports I’ve read and documentaries I’ve seen are quite terrifying. The worst one was that most life on Earth would die off and survivors would have to live at the North and South Poles. Perhaps this is why the news channels barely cover anything other than climate protesters carrying on like loons.

  18. Alex Cox

    In Venezuela mudslides caused by deforestation devastated several towns in the coastal state of Vargas. The Chavez government responded by relocating the population – tens of thousands of people – to new towns inland.

    This megaproject – achieved in spite of US sanctions and coup attempts – is an example of what the US is going to have to do: relocate most of the population of the American southwest. If they don’t start a nuclear war first, this will occupy our politicians and military for the remainder of the century.

  19. Dave_in_Austin


    Are we being snookered here? I took this article on climate change, worked backwards through the sources, and suddenly felt like I’d been dropped into the Woody Allen movie Zilig.

    The data and analyses came from something called “the Rhodium Group” in NYC, which appears to have been founded in 2002. The two named founders seem to be Daniel H. Rosen, born in 1967, and Trevor Houser. A third person, Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, is also involved.

    So I looked each one up to see what their backgrounds were. A number of Google sites promise a CV for Rosen but none seems to exist. The Rhodium website lists his affiliations but not any details about his past. Houser says he went to CCNY but, also, no CV. He lists his present address as 647 4th St., Oakland, CA, which seems to be an empty warehouse (look at Google/Bing street-view for details). Jacob Funk Kirkegaard seems to be Danish, but again, no CV. No PHD/MA listed for any of them ; no theses listed anywhere. Who are Rhodium’s clients? Unknown. Wikipedia? Nothing there.

    All of the Rhodium people are associated with the Peterson Institute of NY, which is a small, hollow, organization with a large voice. Who is Mr. Peterson? Again, no CV, no details. The money? I don’t know.

    So we have… what? Rhodium/Peterson isn’t a widely respected group of scientists giving us a report we can analyze or trust. But as a PR operation; they are brilliant.

    1. Susan C

      My best thanks to you for posting your findings about this
      group is to wish I’d thought of doing so myself. :)

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      This is worth some deeper wider investigative reporting. If this is in part or in whole a lie, who is paying for this lie and what is their prepositioning-for-profit game behind this lie?

    3. Craig Dempsey

      I got curious, so I did a little looking. The Rhodium Group web site is a little vague, although it lists a long list of associates reportedly working on environmental and China issues. The Peterson Institute is more open. Here is a link to their board. The founder is Peter G. Peterson, former US Secretary of Commerce. The Chair is Michael A. Peterson, and the Vice Chair is Lawrence H. Summers, who is a Harvard Professor, former Secretary of the Treasury, and former Director of the National Economic Council. Honorary Directors include Alan Greenspan, former Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and George P. Shultz, who held several cabinet offices, including Secretary of State. One of the listed experts of Peterson Institute is Jacob Funk Kirkegaard. Of the names I recognized at PIIE, all were moderate to conservative, including many Republicans. So, unless Rhodium Group is just a fake site spoofing PIIE affiliation, it appears even some prominent conservatives are very worried about anthropogenic global warming. If anyone knows enough to dig deeper, I would be interested to see what they find.

  20. drumlin woodchuckles

    Global warming realists should form a movement to do all they can to get this article and its knowledge into the Global warming denial zones. That is so the global warming denialists will have something else to deny.

    Then, once the denialists are focused on denializing this particular aspect of global warming, the realists should do their best to help those fellow realists who are living in the future heat death zone to sell their land to denialists living in the future less-heat survival zone. And use the money to buy land from denialists in the less-heat survival zone who will sell their land in order to raise the money to take advantage of land purchase opportunities in the heat-death zone. Since they deny that it is a heat death zone, they might be willing to take the opportunity to buy “more” land there in returning for selling their “less” land in the less-heat survival zone.

    That way, all the denialists could be moved into position to “reap the reward” of their denialism all by themselves.

  21. Claudia

    And what about Climate refugees flocking to the coasts? Ideally we should be preparing for them now- but we can’t deal with our already large numbers of homeless and poor housing policies etc etc. Expecting organized society to continue seems pretty far-fetched to me. .

    1. Thomas Neuburger

      > And what about Climate refugees flocking to the coasts?

      The coasts are the last places to flock, at least the populated parts. Three words: sea level rise.

      It’s going to be a mess, a three-ring swirling mess.


  22. Tom Bradford

    And what about Climate refugees flocking to the coasts?

    They’re going to meet the sea coming the other way.

  23. Jack Parsons

    The US will attempt to annex Canada in the 30-60 year time frame.

    Canada’s only defense is to encourage the breakup of the US and peel off the northernmost states, annexing them under Canadian rules.

    China faces the same problem with Siberia, and I’ve seen reports that there are already Chinese farmers emigrating North to Siberia- meaning that they are in the very early stages of executing a takeover.

  24. George Phillies

    The article seems to conflate wet and dry bulb temperatures. The places above 95 are not above 95 wet bulb..they are above 95 dry bulb. There is also a drybulb temperature limit. it is much higher. It’s not clear why the author thinks that New England is unfavorable.

  25. drumlin woodchuckles

    After I logged off, another Chindia scenario occurred to me. India and China have always considered themselves to be competing saviors and leaders of the Third World. If the world appeared to be on track to Heat Death for many places, Chindia would simply do geo-engineering. Probably with the upper atmosphere Sulfure Dioxide shade layer. If ” the world” dared to object, China-India need only rattle their A-bombs to secure the grateful support of an eager world, or at least the grudging aquiescence of a sullen world.

    In that scenario, rattling the A-bombs is a useful use all by itself.

  26. Big Tap

    I know this article isn’t about the British Isles but what about the future there. If more icebergs with fresh water melt into the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t that weaken the Gulf Stream. Look on a map. Quebec is much further south then say Britain but the winters are more brutal in Quebec. Is this an issue discussed in the U.K. and Ireland?

  27. Thomas Neuburger

    Big Tap, the answer is Yes. Northern Europe could have Canada’s weather if the Gulf Stream fails.


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