The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Climate change is World War III

So says New Republic writer Bill McKibben:

We’re used to war as metaphor: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer. Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.) It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. Its first victims, ironically, are those who have done the least to cause the crisis. But it’s a world war aimed at us all. And if we lose, we will be as decimated and helpless as the losers in every conflict--except that this time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planetwide occupation that follows.

The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?

Meanwhile, scientists are saying that only about 30 major cities will remain cool enough to host the 2088 Olympics:

[Kirk Smith, a professor of global environmental health at University of California, Berkeley] and his colleagues looked the climate conditions of 645 cities in the Northern Hemisphere that are eligible to host the Olympics. Cities that had fewer than 600,000 in population were excluded, as were those that exceeded 1,600 meters (or roughly 5,250 feet) in elevation. They used data from two standard climate models to calculate the temperatures and humidity of those cities over the next century, assuming the levels of greenhouse gas emissions would remain high. With those numbers, they then estimated each city’s wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT), a measure of heat stress that takes into account temperature, humidity, heat radiation, and wind.

Cities are considered to be of high to medium risk if their WBGTs exceed 26 degree Celsius (or 78.8 degree Fahrenheit), which the researchers say is the maximum temperature to safely hold marathons, considered by some to be the most demanding events in the Olympics. (That’s actually a conservative measure; a 2010 study put the temperature threshold of risky marathons at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Another analysis, based on data from more than 2 million marathoners, found the ideal temperature to be as low as 40 to 50 degrees.)

London and San Francisco meet the grade. Chicago is "medium risk." No cities in South America or Africa will be "low risk" by then.

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