By Francis Koster, Member of RPCV4EA's Citizen Climate Science Action Team (CCSA)
You are about to have a “learning moment”. That is when you experience something new, or confusing, and, like it or not, your brain starts to take in new information. It is what happens when you walk into the living room after your spouse surprised you with a new bigger TV - you experience something new, and you realized you have to change your behavior and perhaps even give up the familiar to cope with the previously unseen. Maybe you have to move your recliner.
This is a “learning moment” - you experience something, and you change.
Learning moments are often not voluntary. You, your family, and your friends are likely to experience one this week.
During the third week in June, seven states in America’s west received warnings that their outside environmental conditions will be “extreme and deadly”.[i] This climate phenomenon will quietly move over North Carolina from the west coast around Father’s Day.
The first learning in your upcoming “learning moment” is that temperature is a flawed measurement of human comfort. Go outside on your porch this coming week and you will likely have a learning moment, because it is going to be humid outside.
The thermometer says one thing, but you feel another.
If the thermometer reads 92, and the humidity is 85, it feels like 126 – and because you cannot sweat and cool down at high humidity, unless you have access to air conditioning, you can get sick and die – as hundreds of thousands of people around the world are doing right now.
The first thing for you to learn: climate scientists are trying hard to get people to use a new way to think about temperature. Called the “heat index”, it measures the combined impact of both heat and humidity[ii].
Using this “heat index”, they are telling us that the number of extreme humid heat events overall have been, and will continue to, rise rapidly, because as lakes and oceans warm, more humidity is created.[iii]
The second thing you need to learn is to stop using the words “Global Warming”. Do you really understand what that means? Boiling it down (that is a pun), when you read some statement like ”the earth has warmed 1 degree since the 1950’s”,[iv] It is the average of tens of thousands of temperature (not “heat index”) measurements taken in the ocean, the sky, and on land. The math experts take all of that, including the full range of the hottest and the coldest, average it all out, and report the average answer as the amount of “global warming”.
Think of this average temperature as if your daughter was in the kitchen having one hand in a bucket of ice, and other in a pot of boiling water, and the thermometer taped to her forehead says 98.6 degrees. Now keep her in that position for a while, till the thermometer reading goes up just a little bit.
Are you (or she) having a learning moment? “Doctor, I do not know why she has lost one hand due to frostbite and the other to being boiled so much her flesh fell off – the average only went up a little bit.”
That is how “global warming” is calculated.
That is why you need to shift your behavior to use the term “Climate Change” – because the earth’s hot areas are getting much warmer and more humid. The thermometer taped to your head is not rising much, but the humidity in many parts of the world is. According to one study published in The Lancet Planetary Health Journal found that between 2000 and 2019 (before Covid), climate change is now killing five million people every year.[v]
This week’s learning moment is created by high humidity headed our way.
What can you do about this? Stop talking about temperature and global warming, and start learning about rising humidity and climate change. Stop thinking about this as a political issue, and instead weep for your daughter.
You personally can slow greenhouse gas emissions by changing out all your old light bulbs (reduces their greenhouse gasses from electrical generation 75%)[vi], insulate your water heater (reduces it’s greenhouse gas 15%)[vii], plant a shade tree on the sunny side of your house (reduces it’s greenhouse gas caused by air conditioning, and your costs 20-50% depending on size and placement)[viii].
Experience your learning moment - your energy costs will go down, your comfort level will go up, and around the world millions of sons and daughters will live longer.
About the Author: Francis Koster was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanganyika and Sierra Leone in the early 1960’s. Subsequently, he obtained his doctorate from The Program For The Study of The Future at UMass Amherst, where he studied the future of the basic life support systems. After a period of time as a renewable energy advocate (during which time he ran President Carter’s largest renewable energy program), he was recruited to Pediatric Healthcare, where he spent the rest of his paid career. For the past 12 years he has focused on the public health impacts of environmental contamination. You can see his website at www.thepollutiondetectives.org.