And You Thought That Heat Wave Was Bad?
In any case, the pair crunched the numbers and published the results in a May 2010 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using a measurement called “wet-bulb temperature,” which Huber explains below, they modeled what might happen in several warming scenarios. At the point where the average global temperature rise hits 10°C, “even Siberia reaches values exceeding anything in the present-day tropics” and many populated parts of the globe might become, if habitable at all, places where the relatively affluent would likely find themselves “imprisoned” in air-conditioned spaces and where “power failures would become life-threatening.” Lacking access to AC, the world’s poor would have little choice but to flee. Even “modest” global warming, Huber and Sherwood conclude, could “expose large fractions of the population to unprecedented heat stress.”
Their paper makes for a good wish-it-were-sci-fi read for the scientifically inclined. For everyone else, the heat waves we’ve been experiencing provided the perfect excuse to grill Huber on his underlying assumptions, the hate mail he gets, and whether humans can evolve or air condition our way out of this prawndiddity. That’s a word my kids came up with to describe this type of situation, and I’ll roll with it, since our fiasco is theirs to inherit.