A team of researchers has used climate models to project that in 50 years one-third of the earth’s population will be living in an extremely hot environment, comparable to the Sahara Desert.
The authors of “Future of the human climate niche,” published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, claim to “demonstrate” that “over the coming 50 y, 1 to 3 billion people are projected to be left outside the climate conditions that have served humanity well over the past 6,000 y.”
“Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures [MAT] warmer than nearly anywhere today,” the authors assert.
According to the current population distribution, “one third of the global population is projected to experience a MAT >29°C currently found in only 0.8% of the Earth’s land surface, mostly concentrated in the Sahara,” they declare.
By 2070, much of the world’s population is likely to live in climate conditions that are “warmer than conditions deemed suitable for human life to flourish,” a range described by the authors as the human “climate niche.”
Unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, average annual temperatures will rise beyond the that “niche,” which is equivalent to average yearly temperatures of roughly 52 to 59 Fahrenheit, the authors state. They also claim that people have mostly lived within this window of temperature for several thousand years.
Critics of the article have hastened to point out that many areas of the earth deemed very livable are, in fact, outside the climate “niche.”
Homes to some of the greatest ancient cultures such as Rome, Athens, and Cairo have average temperatures outside of the niche, considered by the authors “warmer than conditions suitable for human life to flourish,” and yet many people would beg to differ, writes James Taylor for Climate Realism.
Los Angeles has a mean annual temperature 65.4ºF; San Diego has a MAT of 65.5ºF and Hilton Head Island has a MAT of 66ºF, all significantly higher than the upper boundary of the human climate niche described by the authors.
Some destination cities are hotter still, such as Phoenix, Arizona, with a MAT of 75.1ºF and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with an average temperature of 76.5ºF.
If all these cities are “warmer than conditions deemed suitable for human life to flourish,” that will certainly come as news to their residents, as well as to the large numbers who flock to visit them.
Besides their very questionable understanding of ideal temperatures for human flourishing, the researchers’ reliance on climate models to predict what the world will look like 50 years from now comes at an unfortunate moment.
The catastrophic, almost comedic, forecasts made about probable deaths from the coronavirus pandemic — which in some cases were off by orders of magnitude — have undermined blind confidence in such models for a significant portion of the population.
While the authors end by suggesting, as such studies inevitably do, that it is “not too late to mitigate climate change” if only humanity is willing to adopt the necessary measures, humanity would do well to view such recommendations with a jaundiced eye.