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sun extreme heat
Image courtesy of NOAA

“Nearly nineteen thousand (19,000) weather stations have notched record high temperatures since Jan. 1.” (Source: “Earth’s Record Hot Streak Might be a Sign of a New Climate Era”, The Washington Post, April 19, 2024).

A blistering start to the 2024 year is breaking all-time global temperature records of 2023 and bringing to the forefront a looming threat of Wet Bulb temperature concerns.

Even though summer ‘24 has not officially begun for the Northern Hemisphere (solstice June 20th), according to DW News (German public broadcast network) d/d April 25th, 2024, “Extreme Heat in Southeast Asia Leads to School Closures”:

Hundreds of millions of people across South and Southeast Asia are facing soaring temperatures and drought as a heatwave grips the region. Dozens have been killed by heatstroke in Thailand alone. Authorities in the capital Bangkok are warning their citizens of the ‘extremely dangerous’ conditions. Schools have been closed in the Philippines and Bangladesh for tens of millions of children and the daytime temperature in Myanmar has reached nearly 46 degrees Celsius. The UN has warned that deaths due to heatstroke were widely underreported, calling heat a ‘silent killer.

Throughout several regions:

Soaring heat and drought have been felt in recent weeks from India, which is carrying out the world’s largest election in temperatures that have risen above 40C, to the coffee plantations of Vietnam… Earlier this month, the United Nations Children’s Fund warned that more than 243 million children across East Asia and the Pacific are at risk of heat-related illnesses and death, as the region braces for an unusually hot summer… The prolonged heat wave already forced the Philippines to close some schools earlier this month, prompting a return to remote learning that became the norm during Covid, while the government urged people to save electricity as power plants were forced to shut down. (Source: “Southeast Asia Heat Wave Shuts down Schools, Stokes Power Demand“, Bloomberg News, April 28, 2024).

“Japan Launches New Alert System as Heat Stroke Deaths Rise”, JapanToday, April 25, 2024: “When the alert is issued, municipalities will open designated facilities such as libraries and community centers to residents as ‘cooling shelters.’ The system will be in effect through Oct 23 this year…The nation’s average temperature in the summer of 2023 was the highest since the Japan Meteorological agency began recording comparable data in 1898.

The Wet Bulb Temperature Peril

The Wet Bulb temperature effect is a killer that is unfortunately gaining new respect.

Heat Index Chart NOAA

New research suggests that with Wet Bulb temperature above 31.5C the body can no longer cool itself and without air conditioning death follows. (Source: “Policy Watch: Countries Slow to Wake up to the Mounting Deaths from Heat Stress“, Reuters, March 18, 2024).

In that regard, Wet Bulb temperature (which was formerly calcuated to be 35C or approximately 95°F/100% humidity) based upon new research can now occur at 31.5C in a range of temperature/humidity configurations: 87°F/100% humidity to 100°F/60% humidity. This means the Wet Bulb temperature barrier is lower and more of a threat than previously thought.

For an interesting, yet gruesome, aside about the risks of human death caused by Wet Bulb temperatures, Andrew Forrest, founder of Australian mining giant Fortescue, attended COP28 in Dubai last year to press politicians to take the Wet Bulb threat seriously:

If our bodies can’t release the heat, then our bodies turn into ovens and they start to cook – our blood, our organs, and, of course, the proteins which our lives depend on. They basically can never come back, it’s like cooking an egg,” he told The Ethical Corporation. “That is what is going to make increasingly large parts of the world beyond the limits of human survival. (Ibid.)

Human migration, an ongoing worldwide phenomenon, is but one symptom of this devastating risk to human life.

According to EU Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), March 2024 was the 10th straight month of record global heat at 1.68°C hotter than an average March between years 1850-1900, which is a reference period for pre-industrial.

For perspective of too much heat, if monthly all-time record heat is continued year-by-year the final result is Venus, aka: “Earth’s Twin” or “Earth’s Sister Planet.” According to NASA, Venus formed in the same inner part of the solar system as Earth out of the same materials and similar in size but, over time, with a different atmosphere. Venus has a thick carbon dioxide -CO2- atmosphere that has a powerful greenhouse effect resulting in scorching temperatures over 900°F or hot enough to melt lead.

Here on Earth, with one eye on Venus, climate scientists have warned about global warming for decades; however, those warnings have been low and not taken seriously enough. But with fossil fuel CO2 emissions now at full blast, in fact, quadrupling, as oil and gas companies crank up production, given enough time, the entire planet turns into a gigantic heat ball right before everybody’s eyes. Hello Venus.

At the Paris 2015 climate conference, delegates from around the world agreed that measures had to be taken to hold global average temperatures under 1.5°C above pre-industrial or suffer challenging consequences. At the time, nobody thought the 1.5C limit would be hit as early as 2024 and before global implementation of effective mitigation measures to reduce CO2 emissions, which measures, by the way, are a big farce, as CO2 emissions steadfastly increase by the year, and now accelerating, in the face of every mitigation measure adopted to date. Moreover, the often-discussed hopeful lifeline Carbon Capture & Sequestration unfortunately is not a viable solution. Al Gore calls it “a fraud” and for good reason.

Meanwhile, the outlook for global warming is bleak. (It should be noted that the IPCC calculates the 1.5C barrier on a decadal basis, but so what? It’s a big problem right now.)

In January 2024 AP News carried the following article: “Earth Shattered Global Heat Record in ’23 and it’s Flirting with Warming Limit European Agency Says”:

On average, global temperatures in 2023 were 1.48 degrees Celsius (2.66 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than pre-industrial times. If annual averages reach above 1.5 degrees Celsius, the effects of global warming could become irreversible, climate scientists say.

Humanity has pushed the planet to a limit that climate scientists warned about for decades; e.g., Dr. James Hansen, former head of NASA Space Studies, in 1988 warned the US Senate that human influence was changing the chemistry of the atmosphere that would bring global warming. He was spot on. (“Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate”, The New York Times, June 24, 1988).

Now, 36 years later, there are politicians at the highest levels of government in Washington, D.C. who still deny the reality of human-caused global warming. Canada’s National Observer has taken notice: “Climate Denial in American Politics” d/d March 28, 2024:

Climate denial is a sinister movement that denies the science of climate change that has infiltrated deep within American politics and is still thriving today. The widespread oppression of science in America is a rarity in modern history — with the exceptions of Germany and Russia during the 1930s — and has never been seen before in a democracy to this extent.

Sinister! Germany 1930s! Some words stick with you.

The environment and energy portfolios of Trump’s administration appeared to be puppets under the control of the “oiligarchs” — the powerful among the energy-industrial complex. As an American election looms later this year, the thought of another Trump presidency sends shivers down the spines of many in the scientific community… This alternate reality is built on alternate facts and alternate science (i.e., fake). We have been too tolerant for too long of this deviant behaviour by elected officials; the time to vote these politicians out of office is long overdue. (Ibid.)

According to CO2.Earth: “A reminder that our world is pushing the planet’s thermostat beyond safe levels at 350 ppm CO2, and that more people are needed to combine our ingenuity and resources to keep the present overshoot brief”:

April 26, 2024        428.59 ppm

April 26, 2023        424.34 ppm

April 26, 1974         333.20 ppm

Good luck with that because the last time CO2 was at a safe level was 50 years ago. The only way to return to 350 is to cut CO2 emissions, but CO2 emissions have never been so robust.

 When it comes to knowledge about climate change, Americans are embarrassingly ignorant:

If you live in the U.S. and happen to get most of your news from national broadcast channels ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox… During the record-smashing year of 2023, these four TV stations spent less than 1% of their news time addressing climate change.” (Source: “Here’s What Record-Breaking Temperatures Looked Like Around the Globe, Yale Climate Connections, April 29, 2024).

 One year ago, the favorite web site for the White House and lawmakers, The Hill article said:

When it comes to the ‘wet bulb temperature’ nearly all of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas are under ‘extreme threat. (Source: “Extreme Threat”: Large Swathe of Southern US at Dangerous ‘Wet Bulb Temperature’”, The Hill, June 29, 2023).

How are the congressional delegations and state politicos from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas doing with the climate change/global warming issue?


Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. 
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