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Human body ‘close to thermal limits’ due to extreme heatwaves caused by climate change, scientist says

Luffytubby

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Extreme global temperatures are pushing the human body “close to thermal limits”, according to a climate scientist.
Record-breaking heat has swept through Europe this week with temperatures topping 40C in a number of countries.
However, in places such as South Asia and the Persian Gulf, people are already enduring temperatures reaching up to 54C.

Despite all the body's thermal efficiencies, these areas could soon be uninhabitable, according to Loughborough University climate scientist Dr Tom Matthews in The Conversation.
When air temperature exceeds 35C, the body relies on sweating to keep core temperatures at a safe level. However, when the “wet bulb” temperature – which reflects the ability of moisture to evaporate – reaches 35C, this system no longer works.
“The wet bulb temperature includes the cooling effect of water evaporating from the thermometer, and so is normally much lower than the normal (“dry bulb”) temperature reported in weather forecasts,” Dr Matthews wrote.

“Once this wet bulb temperature threshold is crossed, the air is so full of water vapour that sweat no longer evaporates,” he said.
This means the human body cannot cool itself enough to survive more than a few hours.
“Without the means to dissipate heat, our core temperature rises, irrespective of how much water we drink, how much shade we seek, or how much rest we take,” he explained.
Some areas – which are among the most densely populated on Earth – could pass this threshold by the end of the century, according to Dr Matthews.
There is already evidence wet bulb temperatures are occurring in Southwest Asia.
With climate change starting to profoundly alter weather systems, rising temperatures could soon make parts of the world uninhabitable.

If electricity can be maintained, living in chronically heat-stressed conditions may be possible but a power outage could be catastrophic.
In a recent paper published in Nature Climate Change, Dr Matthews and his team looked at the probability of a “grey swan” event in the case of extreme heat coinciding with massive blackouts.

“We found that as the climate warms, it becomes ever more likely that these powerful cyclones would be followed by dangerous heat, and that such compound hazards would be expected every year if global warming reaches 4C.
“During the emergency response to a tropical cyclone, keeping people cool would have to be as much a priority as providing clean drinking water.”
Heat-stressed countries are likely to see the largest absolute increases in humid-heat and they are often the least well-prepared to deal with the hazard. This could drive mass migration, which would make heat a worldwide issue – even for countries that are not experiencing scorching temperatures.
Dr Matthews wrote: “The challenges ahead are stark. Adaptation has its limits. We must therefore maintain our global perspective on heat and pursue a global response, slashing greenhouse gas emissions to keep to the Paris warming limits.
“In this way, we have the greatest chance of averting deadly heat – home and abroad.”

Link: Chinese Hoax me if old


I had never heard about the wet bulb temperature before.
I fear that we might see massive migrations of people leaving these hot areas. It could totally overwhelm places like western Europe as the potential for refugees over climate change is so many more times greater than with Syria. At the same time, you also wonder how much and how long these people can endure these increasing temperatures. There are billions of people living in these regions - Where are they gonna go in total desperation once it gets bad enough? You cannot really grow shit anymore.

And in places like India they have other disasters like their water draught;

“The current water crisis in Chennai was predicted years ago, and there has been relatively little effort made to prepare for it,” says Mervyn Piesse, manager of global food and water crises research program at Future Directions International, a research institute based in Nedlands, Australia.
The situation in Chennai reflects a larger water crisis spreading across India. Half the country’s population—600 million people—live in areas where water resources are highly or extremely stressed. About 100 million people living in 21 of India’s biggest cities may see their groundwater exhausted by the end of next year, according to a 2018 study by NITI Aayog, an Indian government policy think tank.

Link: WSJ Water Crsis

What would 600 million people on the run in desperation for water even look like? That sounds like a cocktail for civil war, extremism, famine and mass deaths. Really, really scary stuff. You can reflect on the corruption and incompetence of the Indian government. A lot of people could die and get hurt on their watch, and this will have a ripple effect across other nations as desperate people pour over destabilizing other vulnerable nations.
 
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synchronicity

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Scarcity of resources (including habitable land) will always result in violence. Competition for survival is the fundamental ground of life. And as heavily populated as the Earth currently is, things could rapidly get quite chaotic indeed. The ripple effects would / will cover the globe.
 
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#Phonepunk#

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lol "close to thermal limits". most nerdy scientist way to say "it is hot hot hot",

drink plenty of fluids, folks. stay hydrated. this is important whether or not you believe in spontaneous combustion. and im not talking coffee or tea. drink lots of water.
 
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Ornlu

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So is the argument that India is becoming radically hotter than in the past? I don't think I'd take that bet.

Or, is the argument that India/SE Asia was already nearly at temperatures that are prohibitive to human survival, and that global warming will tip it upward a few degrees in the near future?

These two arguments can't both exist at the same time. I guess you could combine them and say that the entire world is radically hotter right now as compared to the past, but that wouldn't match the current "climate change consensus" at all.

So, which is it?

1. India was fine before, but is suddenly now radically hotter
2. India was already borderline too hot for humans, global warming's current estimated effect of 0.7 degrees C/1.26 degrees F is what is making the region too hot
3. The entire world was fine before, but is suddenly now radically hotter. (this applies to the European heatwave panic as well)
 
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CeroFrio996

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Or, is the argument that India/SE Asia was already nearly at temperatures that are prohibitive to human survival, and that global warming will tip it upward a few degrees in the near future?

This one seems to be the closest to what the research is indicating. India is already a hot, humid climate and climate change will only make those two problems more pronounced. I have no idea why you seem to be stating this as though it's somehow self defeating to climate science to admit this though?
 

Ornlu

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This one seems to be the closest to what the research is indicating. India is already a hot, humid climate and climate change will only make those two problems more pronounced. I have no idea why you seem to be stating this as though it's somehow self defeating to climate science to admit this though?

I did not assert that.
 

Thaedolus

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So is the argument that India is becoming radically hotter than in the past? I don't think I'd take that bet.

Or, is the argument that India/SE Asia was already nearly at temperatures that are prohibitive to human survival, and that global warming will tip it upward a few degrees in the near future?

These two arguments can't both exist at the same time. I guess you could combine them and say that the entire world is radically hotter right now as compared to the past, but that wouldn't match the current "climate change consensus" at all.

So, which is it?

1. India was fine before, but is suddenly now radically hotter
2. India was already borderline too hot for humans, global warming's current estimated effect of 0.7 degrees C/1.26 degrees F is what is making the region too hot
3. The entire world was fine before, but is suddenly now radically hotter. (this applies to the European heatwave panic as well)

It doesn't seem like 2 and 3 are actually mutually exclusive? And I don't know that anyone would argue the entire world is uniformly radically hotter? It's the aggregate. Also a possibility is that the world really needs a delicate balance and any minor change could really push stuff over the edge.

We might think this is just an engineering problem and people are chicken littling over heat waves, but also: who's going to pay for air conditioning for all of Southeast Asia? We already let people starve to death when we can afford to feed them. What makes anyone think we'd put in AC units for people in places that are now getting too hot to live in otherwise?
 

Ornlu

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My mistake, that's what it looked like to me.

No problem, I was mostly posing the questions as these articles are usually written with a shotgun approach. They have a premise already in mind and then shoot somewhat vaguely in the direction they want to go in, ignoring any data which could be conflicting. So, I was saying that the idea that India/SE Asia is somehow radically hotter than normal would directly conflict with the current consensus on climate change, which posits that the world is .7 degrees C/ 1.26 degrees F hotter than it was 100 years ago.

If they wanted to point toward the loss of tree cover/extreme overpopulation/rampant pollution/terrible air quality as more likely culprits in regards to India's current problems, or if the argument presented is that the temperatures in the region have historically already been so close to fatal for human life that the slightest rise would cause deaths, I think those are arguments that are much easier to support.
 

Ornlu

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It doesn't seem like 2 and 3 are actually mutually exclusive? And I don't know that anyone would argue the entire world is uniformly radically hotter? It's the aggregate. Also a possibility is that the world really needs a delicate balance and any minor change could really push stuff over the edge.

We might think this is just an engineering problem and people are chicken littling over heat waves, but also: who's going to pay for air conditioning for all of Southeast Asia? We already let people starve to death when we can afford to feed them. What makes anyone think we'd put in AC units for people in places that are now getting too hot to live in otherwise?

To directly respond to the bolded:

I would respectfully disagree. The planet has changed radically many times, while still supporting life. A minor change over a long period, such as reaching 1,000 ppm of CO2 and then staying at that level for a couple of centuries would probably push stuff over the edge and create radical changes. However, as trends have a tendency to not continue in the same direction forever (such as what the climate models rely on), I am very confident that humanity as a whole will be fine. Even in the scenarios that resemble some of the hottest levels in Earth's history, humanity would survive.

To respond to the rest of the post:

As far as dealing with heat waves, I don't begrudge people living through them expressing displeasure, just as I don't begrudge people dealing with record snowfall, or with flooding from record rainfall, or with people dealing with record levels of drought.

My ultimate gripes with the more alarmist of the climate change/global warming crowd are 3 things:

1. You can't just handwave and blame everything you don't like on climate change. It doesn't work that way.
2. None of the paths/solutions presented thus far are realistic, especially when accounting for human behavior and choice.
3. If you accept the goals set forth at face value (entirely upending the world power grid, infrastructure, economy, agriculture) and follow them to their logical conclusions in the timelines set forth, you only achieve your carbon-negative utopia world by killing off most of the people in it. Maybe that's what they want, but I don't.
 

CeroFrio996

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which posits that the world is .7 degrees C/ 1.26 degrees F hotter than it was 100 years ago.

I will point out how that statistic is an average. All the world's temperatures combined and divided into one number is about .7 C higher, but that doesn't mean that some places aren't increasing in temperature faster than others. It would make sense the places closer to the equator would be feeling the effects of climate change sooner than other places, though I don't know that to be true.
 

manfestival

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So like when are we gonna start making space colonies that house spacenoids so we can eventually move onto making gundams?
 
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Away with the fairies
No need to worry at all.

Solar power from the sun provides electricity
Sun warms up earth melting ice caps
melted ice caps cause sea water to rise
extra sea water turned into fresh water
fresh water sent to everywhere/anywhere thanks to green energy.

Mother nature is melting the ice caps so that we have more sea water to desalinate, to keep fresh water supplies flowing to areas of drought.
 
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Ornlu

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I will point out how that statistic is an average. All the world's temperatures combined and divided into one number is about .7 C higher, but that doesn't mean that some places aren't increasing in temperature faster than others. It would make sense the places closer to the equator would be feeling the effects of climate change sooner than other places, though I don't know that to be true.

You may be entirely correct, I'm just not aware of verifiable data showing the world consistently warming unevenly. If it's out there I would welcome hearing about it.
 

Thaedolus

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To directly respond to the bolded:

I would respectfully disagree. The planet has changed radically many times, while still supporting life. A minor change over a long period, such as reaching 1,000 ppm of CO2 and then staying at that level for a couple of centuries would probably push stuff over the edge and create radical changes. However, as trends have a tendency to not continue in the same direction forever (such as what the climate models rely on), I am very confident that humanity as a whole will be fine. Even in the scenarios that resemble some of the hottest levels in Earth's history, humanity would survive.

I don't think you're wrong that humanity will survive or that the planet has changed radically over time and still supported life. However, we are in completely uncharted territory with regard to having a global community of humanity that's now >7.5 billion people. We've already seen a sneak preview of the unrest and violence and mass migration that can result from a relatively small country like Syria having crops fail, then devolving into civil war. What happens when it's 500 million people being displaced? Or a country with nukes? I think humanity will survive climate change, but what will it look like once all is said and done? And what will the planet look like? I don't think any of that can be shrugged off. World War II was the greatest travesty we've ever experienced and it killed 70-80 million people. Just imagine what the numbers will look like if the climate spirals out of control...and by out of control I think we're talking only a couple years of crop failures in large regions turning hungry people against each other.

To respond to the rest of the post:

As far as dealing with heat waves, I don't begrudge people living through them expressing displeasure, just as I don't begrudge people dealing with record snowfall, or with flooding from record rainfall, or with people dealing with record levels of drought.

My ultimate gripes with the more alarmist of the climate change/global warming crowd are 3 things:

1. You can't just handwave and blame everything you don't like on climate change. It doesn't work that way.

No you can't, but it can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. It doesn't work like "everything's fucked because of climate change!!" it's more "everything's fucked already and adding climate change on top of it will make it really fucked." This goes back to the whole idea it could really be much more of a delicate balance than we realize because we're in completely uncharted territory with regard to the size of human life and consumption and what the requirements of sustaining that are.

2. None of the paths/solutions presented thus far are realistic, especially when accounting for human behavior and choice.

I think there are realistic paths to engineering ourselves out of calamity, but the second part is what's important. Nobody gives enough of a shit because they're not staring down the barrel of a gun and these solutions take time and massive investment.


3. If you accept the goals set forth at face value (entirely upending the world power grid, infrastructure, economy, agriculture) and follow them to their logical conclusions in the timelines set forth, you only achieve your carbon-negative utopia world by killing off most of the people in it. Maybe that's what they want, but I don't.

I think you can get carbon negative without doing all of that, but it's that second point in #2. Massive investment and time to get there. Carbon capture and storage is a thing, but the economics of it make zero sense...who's going to pay for that on any kind of scale?
 
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JordanN

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I fear that we might see massive migrations of people leaving these hot areas. It could totally overwhelm places like western Europe as the potential for refugees over climate change is so many more times greater than with Syria.
How are 600 million people going to get from India to Europe? They can't all walk there without coming in contact with other countries first.
 

iconmaster

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Seriously, less than fifty bucks.

Edit: and it says anywhere. That's key.
 
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CeroFrio996

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Seriously, less than fifty bucks.

Edit: and it says anywhere. That's key.

How exactly does that solve the problem? Are people just going to lounge all day in front of an ac and not work outside? Are they going to pepper the streets with these things every 10 feet?
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Wow it's almost like we've been building shelter to shade our bodies and dugouts in the ground to take advantage of ground temperature and layering our clothing and other such primitive methods of jettisoning heat for thousands of years.
 
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CeroFrio996

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Wow it's almost like we've been building shelter to shade our bodies and dugouts in the ground to take advantage of ground temperature and layering our clothing and other such primitive methods of jettisoning heat for thousands of years.
Yeah, let's not acknowledge that it's kind of scary that India could become mostly uninhabitable, let's just pump up the AC!

btw they're saying here that it could become so hot and so humid that shelter or hydration would not help us self regulate. Unless you think we should all become mole people I think that's a problem we should address.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Yeah, let's not acknowledge that it's kind of scary that India could become mostly uninhabitable, let's just pump up the AC!
Yeah, let's mischaracterize the argument in service of The Ideology! Humankind has dealt with heat and humidity before and continues to do so on a regular basis. This isn't the first time we've seen warnings about the dreaded 'wet bulb' and it won't be the last. If India is worried about warming they should stop modernizing their country and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, amirite?

btw they're saying here that it could become so hot and so humid that shelter or hydration would not help us self regulate. Unless you think we should all become mole people I think that's a problem we should address.
Yes, I'm aware of what they are saying. It has been said before. That doesn't change the historical record of cultures living in these extreme temperatures for thousands of years already without dying off. Surely humans will be able to adapt.
 

iconmaster

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Which is why I said the second bit that you cut out. So I guess your solution is just to carry around with you everwhere?

I'm trying to keep the overhead low, in the interest of poorer countries and charity efforts. But wearable options do exist.
 

Luffytubby

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Yeah, let's mischaracterize the argument in service of The Ideology! Humankind has dealt with heat and humidity before and continues to do so on a regular basis. This isn't the first time we've seen warnings about the dreaded 'wet bulb' and it won't be the last. If India is worried about warming they should stop modernizing their country and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, amirite?


Yes, I'm aware of what they are saying. It has been said before. That doesn't change the historical record of cultures living in these extreme temperatures for thousands of years already without dying off. Surely humans will be able to adapt.

We know from many archeological studies that large migrations across the world has happened in part or sorely due to change in climate. So human historys adoptation to climate changes have often been linked to "get the fuck out". We are not hunterer-gatherer socities anymore. We are so many more people than say, 2000 years ago. When you combine a lot more people with the idea of migrating, the optics change. Europe was rocked by refugees from Syria. While its neighbours sheltered most refugees, millions of people flooded into mainland Europe and it has changed the continent and divided countries as the economic union losses its grip of who bears the blame, and who is to pay for it.
Secondly, the things that are happening have never happened in the course of recorded human history. There is a big unknown X factor of how that might affect us. So while we have adapted to consequential changes in the climate over the last 40,000 years, it's not like that, that can be hand waved as saying that this is the same. Because they are not. And we know that from researching how people lived and died, and how they migrated.

Human beings can withstand a lot due to our technology, but that doesn't mean that living on earth wouldn't suck if most of the earths land coverage was inhabitable. There are already places like the Sahara were human civilization on a meaningful scale will be almost impossible. Or in the best case scenario - Suck major ass.
I think that it's not so much a question of if humankind will survive, but more of how it will affect all the things we take for granted. A lot of our occupied lands are just to grow foods for animals. Agriculture, that we all depend on is a major risk here, because that will be the first to take a nosedive. And imagine the desperation once harvests fail in parts of the world.

Us in the west might think we will be shielded from that, but we are also dependent on global factors, outsourcing and commodities that are made by people in the third world. People who wont have the infrastructure, the means, the money or the resources. Which is terrible and frightening as many of these countries are just trying to carry themselves out of the slums and escape national poverty.

Just because we can survive or that we can potentially adapt, that doesn't sound reassuring or like a less abysmal future for us or the planet.
 

iconmaster

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Human beings can withstand a lot due to our technology, but that doesn't mean that living on earth wouldn't suck if most of the earths land coverage was inhabitable. There are already places like the Sahara were human civilization on a meaningful scale will be almost impossible. Or in the best case scenario - Suck major ass.
I think that it's not so much a question of if humankind will survive, but more of how it will affect all the things we take for granted. A lot of our occupied lands are just to grow foods for animals. Agriculture, that we all depend on is a major risk here, because that will be the first to take a nosedive. And imagine the desperation once harvests fail in parts of the world.

What you're talking about is a large-scale famine. Even this isn't something terribly new. The Great Famine killed over seven million people, and was also triggered by climate.

Obviously, no one wants to live through something like that. But it wouldn't be world-ending, either.
 

Tesseract

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there already are uninhabitable zones that lead to newly habitable zones

people will have to move or die

also lol a single volcano basically blasts up more human emissions than all of human emissions throughout history
 
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JordanN

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there already are uninhabitable zones that lead to newly habitable zones

people will have to move or die
Look at where India is on the map though.


They're all going to walk to the next country, which is either Pakistan, Bangladesh or China?

600 million Indians moving into Pakistan sounds like instant WW3. China being the brutal regime they are would have no qualms stopping them at the border.

I rather go with the air conditioning idea than transfer billions of people across the border.
 
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Tesseract

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Look at where India is on the map though.


They're all going to walk to the next country, which is either Pakistan, Bangladesh or China?

600 million Indians moving into Pakistan sounds like instant WW3. China being the brutal regime they are would have no qualms stopping them at the border.

then they'll get stopped at the border, i don't see a practical alternative
 

CeroFrio996

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Yeah, let's mischaracterize the argument in service of The Ideology! Humankind has dealt with heat and humidity before and continues to do so on a regular basis. This isn't the first time we've seen warnings about the dreaded 'wet bulb' and it won't be the last. If India is worried about warming they should stop modernizing their country and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, amirite?


Yes, I'm aware of what they are saying. It has been said before. That doesn't change the historical record of cultures living in these extreme temperatures for thousands of years already without dying off. Surely humans will be able to adapt.

L Luffytubby has said it far better than I could while at work and on my phone. Could we survive? Maybe. What's happening in India is only one factor. But even if we DO survive, do we retain the society that we've so thoroughly taken advantage of?
 

DunDunDunpachi

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L Luffytubby has said it far better than I could while at work and on my phone. Could we survive? Maybe. What's happening in India is only one factor. But even if we DO survive, do we retain the society that we've so thoroughly taken advantage of?
I won't get into it all over again here, but I'm all for reform and sustainable carbon reduction. Personally, revamping our agriculture and adopting carbon sequestration practices therein would do more than enough to offset our current emissions and reduce overall CO2 levels.

That doesn't mean, however, that the earth will warm up to the point of making these areas uninhabitable. Doom 'n gloom hasn't worked for climate scientists thus far. I don't see why it would work on the 1,956th try.
 
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. A lot of our occupied lands are just to grow foods for animals. Agriculture, that we all depend on is a major risk here, because that will be the first to take a nosedive. And imagine the desperation once harvests fail in parts of the world.
animals and plant are easier to genetically modify than human, as we don't mind their safety as much. They can be altered with genes from animals and plants more able to withstand the heat.
 

Tesseract

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why you care about carbon emission reduction when we already heading down that path and volcanoes fuck our shit up every year

climate scientists don't even lift
 
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Clear

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I must admit, I've always been a bit dubious about climatologists.

I mean, objectively speaking, they aren't the solution to the problem. In fact their importance is directly connected to the magnitude of the problems they predict., which puts them in a weird spot where it would behoove them to always take the most dire view as possible because in the end its not on them to fix the situation but it will keep the grant money flowing to their research.

This ties in with the whole "precautionary principle" thing which in both politics and science means that whoever dreams the darkest wins.
 
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CeroFrio996

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I must admit, I've always been a bit dubious about climatologists.

I mean, objectively speaking, they aren't the solution to the problem.

You understand that climate change isn't the only thing climatologists study, right? I mean obviously it's a huge part of their jobs right now because it's kind of a big deal, but that's not their whole purpose for existing...

And if course climatologists aren't the solution, they are the watchmen. They collect and interpret the data and warn us of problems with our climate... now if only everyone would listen and do something about it.
 

Taxexemption

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40c? So like 104 Fahrenheit? Babies. I'm not even bothered by heat till we get to the 100's. I've lived in California most of my life, and not by the coast, and mostly in houses that did not have well functioning air conditioning. People can survive just fine.
 

eot

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I must admit, I've always been a bit dubious about climatologists.

I mean, objectively speaking, they aren't the solution to the problem. In fact their importance is directly connected to the magnitude of the problems they predict., which puts them in a weird spot where it would behoove them to always take the most dire view as possible because in the end its not on them to fix the situation but it will keep the grant money flowing to their research.

This ties in with the whole "precautionary principle" thing which in both politics and science means that whoever dreams the darkest wins.
While such (and other) biases can and do exist within science, that is not an argument you can use to dismiss a specific claim. Also, there are mechanisms to combat that, tenure is one of them. It's also worth mentioning that the majority of labor in academia is done by grant students, who generally don't have much to do with grant applications and who reach their own conclusions. It's perfectly fine to be critical of science, but the starting point shouldn't be "there's self interest, so they might be acting out of self interest", because while that may be true, you can say that about a whole swathe of things.

A concrete example is the current state of high energy physics, where many seem to have lost perspective. You can argue against their lobbying for building a new particle collider at CERN and give very specific, scientific reasons for why that maybe shouldn't be done, and after all that argue that maybe their inability to confront these argument points to a certain social bias within the community. But you cannot a priori accuse them of such biases simply because "particle physicist are gonna want a collider!" - maybe they have good reason to want one.

The thing is, most people who do science are driven by curiosity, and are the first ones to try to disprove their own ideas. Because they know how hard it is to have a genuinely good, novel idea and don't want to pass their own off as that before they know it's the case. They're also people who aren't likely to take others at their word when making unsubstantiated claims.

Finally, there's a huge amount of influential powers that stand to lose from climate change policies. If your goal is to get grant money, then antagonizing the oil industry, car industry, hell the whole freight industry, maybe isn't the best plan, eh?