Too Hot To Live
In the coming decades, much of the planet will regularly experience *feels-like* temperatures of 55°C. This is beyond the human survivability threshold – meaning most of the planet will become uninhabitable.
The summer of 2019 saw temperatures hit shocking new highs all over the world! For the first time since records began, temperatures exceeded 45°C in France. In Germany, record-high temperatures were first broken in June (with 39°C) and then again in July with 42.6°C! And that’s just Europe. In India, for example, temperatures near New Delhi reached an astonishing 50.8°C at the beginning of June.
But the temperature is only one side of the coin; the other is humidity. At the beginning of August, Louisiana experienced 36°C with 60% humidity: that’s a feels-like temperature of 43.4°C. Even worse still, in August, Japan suffered temperatures of 38.4 C in Kumagaya – a city northwest of Tokyo – with humidity of 68%. That’s a feels-like temperature of 49.4°C that left dozens dead and thousands hospitalised.
The potent combination of heat and humidity, both increasing due to CO2 emissions, makes heatwaves deadly. When feels-like temperatures climb above 40°C there’s a high risk of heatstroke, cramps and exhaustion which threaten the lives of many – especially the sick, the elderly, children and pregnant women. At feels-like temperatures above 55°C, even the healthiest among us can’t survive for more than a couple of hours. Japan wasn’t too far from that threshold this summer. With the humidity they had, a measly 3°C more is all it takes, and it’s only a matter of time until these temperatures are topped regularly.
Globally, the last five summers have been the hottest – June 2019 particularly being the worst ever recorded1. And it’s just the beginning. We’re now at 1°C global warming, and we’re on a path to reach 1.5°C global warming within the 2030s. At this rate, we’ll reach the 2°C threshold, once set up as a target not to cross by the end of the century, before 20502. Without drastic change, we’re on course to reach an apocalyptic 4 to 6°C of global warming by 2100.
Global Land Temperature Anomalies
The impact of 1.5 and 2°C global warming will be dramatic. With 1.5°C of warming, up to 4.5 billion people will endure heatwaves regularly and, among them, 700 million will experience deadly, humid heatwaves that cross the survival threshold. At 2°C, those numbers shoot up to 6.7 billion people subjected to heatwaves and 2 billion people affected by fatal humid heatwaves2:13. And all this is projected to happen in just a few decades! By the end of the century, most tropical areas, as well as parts of the USA, Southern Europe, Central and East Asia, will all suffer feel temperatures above 55°C for up to several months each year45.
We’re on a treacherous path that will make most of our world uninhabitable – with temperatures regularly crossing the limit of what a healthy human can survive. Soon, the earth will truly be ‘Too Hot to Live’ and only drastic and immediate action can prevent this fate! We need to act now.
NOAA National Centers for Environmental information, 2019, Climate at a Glance: Global Time Series, data retrieved on Sept 2019. ↩︎
IPCC Special Report, 2019, A Global Warming of 1.5°C, IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland. ↩︎ ↩︎
Dosio et al., 2018, Extreme heat waves under 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming, Environmental Research Letters 13:054006. ↩︎
Russo et al., 2017, Humid heat waves at different warming levels, Nature Scientific Reports 7:7477. ↩︎
Mora et al., 2017, Global risk of deadly heat, Nature Climate Change 7:501-506. ↩︎