Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

One-Third of Humanity Could Live in Sahara-Level Heat by 2070

Climate
One-Third of Humanity Could Live in Sahara-Level Heat by 2070
Oil wells near Hassi Messaoud, Sahara Desert, Algeria. If nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, one third of humanity could live in conditions as hot as the Sahara Desert by 2070. DeAgostini / Getty Images

If nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, one third of humanity could live in conditions as hot as the Sahara Desert by 2070.


This sobering conclusion, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, was based on an international study of the climate conditions humans have preferred over the past 6,000 years and how the climate crisis might alter them.

"The numbers are flabbergasting. I literally did a double take when I first saw them," study coauthor Tim Lenton of Exeter University told The Guardian. "I've previously studied climate tipping points, which are usually considered apocalyptic. But this hit home harder. This puts the threat in very human terms."

The researchers first set out to determine if humans had a "climate niche," or ideal temperature range they tend to settle in, much like other animals, The New York Times explained. They found that, throughout human history, we have consistently chosen locations with a relatively narrow temperature range.

The majority of people now live in places with a mean temperature of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit while a smaller number live in places with a mean of 68 to 77 degrees. Most human settlements from 6,000 years ago were placed in areas with the same mean temperatures, the researchers found.

"We didn't think that would be the case," study coauthor Marten Scheffer, a professor of complex systems sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, told The New York Times.

This human vulnerability to climate extremes is bad news for the future. In a business-as-usual scenario, 3.5 billion people will live in areas with a mean temperature above 84 degrees Fahrenheit or 29 degrees Celsius within 50 years.

"This would bring 3.5 billion people into near-unlivable conditions," study coauthor Jens-Christian Svenning of Aarhus University in Denmark told iNews.

The countries most at risk from extreme heat are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and Sudan. In India, more than 1.2 billion people could be exposed to these temperatures.

"I think it is fair to say that average temperatures over 29C are unlivable," Scheffer told The Guardian. "You'd have to move or adapt. But there are limits to adaptation. If you have enough money and energy, you can use air conditioning and fly in food and then you might be OK. But that is not the case for most people."

The scientists said their findings were another argument for climate action, noting that, if emissions are reduced, the number of people exposed to these temperatures would decrease to around one billion, according to The New York Times.

"The good news is that these impacts can be greatly reduced if humanity succeeds in curbing global warming," Lenton told USA TODAY. "Our computations show that each degree warming (Celsius) above present levels corresponds to roughly 1 billion people falling outside of the climate niche. It is important that we can now express the benefits of curbing greenhouse gas emissions in something more human than just monetary terms."

Actress Jessica Smith gets her make-up done at the Point De Vue Salon on March 1, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Marsaili McGrath / Getty Images

California became the first state in the nation to ban two dozen toxic chemicals from cosmetics Wednesday when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to that effect into law.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The MoveOn political action committee memorializes coronavirus deaths in the U.S. on May 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images for MoveOn

As the coronavirus has spread around the globe, so have the germs of misinformation and conspiracy theories about the new disease. Fake news about the virus is so prevalent that health professionals have started referring to it as an "infodemic."

Read More Show Less

Trending

A Marathon Oil refinery in Melvindale, Michigan on June 9, 2020. The Federal Reserve bought $3 million in the company's bonds before they were downgraded, bringing taxpayers' total stake to $7 million. FracTracker Alliance

A new report shows the U.S. government bought more than $350 million in bonds issued by oil and gas companies and induced investors to loan the industry tens of billions more at artificially low rates since the coronavirus pandemic began, Bloomberg reported.

Read More Show Less
A September 17 report by the Rhodium Group calculates that 1.8 billion tons more greenhouse gases will be released over the next 15 years as a result of climate change rollbacks the Trump administration has achieved so far. Pete Linforth / Pixabay / CC0

By Karen Charman

When President Donald Trump visited California on September 14 and dismissed the state Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot's plea to recognize the role of climate change in the midst of the Golden State's worst and most dangerous recorded fire season to date, he gaslighted the tens of millions of West Coast residents suffering through the ordeal.

Read More Show Less
President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jan Ellen Spiegel

It wasn't so long ago that the issue of climate change was poised to play a huge – possibly even a decisive – role in the 2020 election, especially in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Many people supporting Democratic candidates saw a possible Democratic majority as a hedge against a potential Trump re-election … a way to plug the firehose spray of more than 100 environmental regulation rollbacks and new anti-climate initiatives by the administration over its first term.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch