Persian Gulf could be too hot for humans by 2100

No, this ain’t gonna happen.

Global warming could create peaks of humid heat in the Persian Gulf beyond human tolerance by century’s end, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, heatwaves occurring on average once every 10 or 20 years would, by 2100, exceed the capacity of a young, healthy person to maintain a normal body temperature, the study found.

It’s the “continue unabated” which is wrong. Simply because we know damn well that emissions aren’t going to continue unabated. It doesn’t matter whether we use the older SRES scenarios or the newer RCP ones. The mistake, and it is a mistake, whether an honest one or a manipulation, is to take the very worst of the scenarios that have been mapped out and then claim that this is the “business as usual” one.

The point being that no scenario is “the” business as usual one. I know much more about the SRES than I do the RCP ones but the same is true of all of them: all are business as usual ones. That is, all are equally possible outcomes of the normal interplay of the number of people, the wealth of them, and the technology they use to power their civilisation (this is much more explicit in the SRES literature than the RCP).

So, to pull out RCP 8.5, which is what is done here, and claim that this is what would happen is simply wrong. It’s what could happen if the specific emissions pattern modeled happens.

And the lovely thing we know about RCP 8.5 is that we know, absolutely, that it’s not going to happen. It assumes high population growth (higher than is happening), lower technology growth (lower than is happening…..and yes, lower technology growth leads to higher emissions) and poorer people. And that we get more of our primary energy from coal in the future than we do now for fuck’s sake. It’s very akin to A1FI from the SRES. An outcome that just isn’t going to happen.

For example, we know very well that solar is going to become properly price competitive in the next few years. Might be 2020, 2025, but we know it’s coming. It’s already properly competitive in poor parts of the world (because it doesn’t require the building out of the grid). Yet RCP 8.5 assumes that everyone will recapitulate the use of coal as they develop. It just ain’t gonna happen.

But everyone is still using it as their “business as usual” model. They’re just wrong.

And this is more than just a whinge at people publishing alarmist papers before COP in Paris. Google shut down their research arm into alternative energy because they didn’t understand this point. They looked at the business as usual projection then measured what they thought they could achieve against this. They concluded that they couldn’t solve it so they went off to do something else. But their BAU was A1FI from the SRES. They completely neglected to think about how their research might affect other equally likely scenarios.

This emphasis on only measuring the effects of the very worst possible outcome actually closed down a vast research effort into what to do about it.

I’ve actually had a brief interation with Michael Mann over this. Over on Twatter back a while there was a challenge from Mann. So, Worstall, can you do better than this paper showing the effects of climate change?

Yep, I could and I did. The paper had assumed A1FI. I just pointed out that you have to consider all of the BAUs, then assign probabilities to them (not something anyone does) in order to reach your expected outcome. Entirely agreed, for the purposes of that argument, that *if* you assume A1FI then that paper’s fine. But a better answer would be to give us the expected outcome by considering all equally likely scenarios.

He shut up after that. Because that did make the paper better.

This is also how James Hansen gets to $1,000 a tonne as being the correct carbon tax. He looks at the worst possible scenario, calculates (reasonably fairly) the highest possible value of the carbon tax that implies and then states that that’s what the tax should be. No, it shouldn’t be: the tax should be based upon the expected value, calculated by looking at all BAUs and then weighting them by probability.

What annoys me so much about the whole climate change thing is that the scientists are rather ignoring the economics of what’s going in and then ignoring the economics of what’s coming out. I have no hope whatsoever of understanding what they’re saying about radiative forcing and all that. But I do grok most of the economics. And they’re all woefully misusing it.

16 thoughts on “Persian Gulf could be too hot for humans by 2100”

  1. “continue unabated” is actually correct.
    Ignoring the CO2 mania that grips the European and American elite, most of the rest of the world is going to continue to substantially increase gas of life emissions. India’s COP21 “30%” reduction plan will actually result in a threefold increase in overall emissions, For China we know it will be business as usual (ie massive increases) and every developing third world country will end up building more fossil fuel power stations to power their growth. Sure they will pay lip service to the mantra, but coal especially is the cheapest most reliable form of power that there currently is to bring them out of poverty and win votes.

    Even if solar becomes cheaper, as the recent choice by some Indians for grid power shows, they know the difference between “solar” and the “real” reliable always on as much as you want grid power.

  2. It was too hot for humans – or at least, normal human habitation – before the availability of air conditioning. There were no large cities in the Gulf States – Dubai was basically a pirate cove – the locals were mainly Bedouin and those who lived in houses stayed indoors during the hottest months to keep cool. Of course, this didn’t matter so much because the temperature would drop at night and mid-summer doesn’t last forever. Winter in Kuwait is positively chilly, to the point you need a jumper and, if that bloody wind is blowing in from Iraq, you need a coat. Winter in the UAE was far more pleasant. “Beyond human tolerance” is a phrase that might not fully appreciate how tolerant and adaptable people are.

  3. In 2100, won’t the populace of the Persian gulf be able to migrate to the Northern Caliphate (FKA The European Union*)?

    * the feared religious war did not emerge; however the indigenous population had largely declared itself ‘post-gender’ and stopped breeding by 2050….

  4. What Tim Newman says, large parts are already uninhabitable without using various technologies to adapt. Same applies to much of the southern United States – summer in Houston is unimaginable without copious air-con.

  5. I’m not surprised that some climate scientists haven’t taken into account scenario probabilities: it’s in their interests to predict doom.

    I am shocked that Google didn’t do this: they’ve given up a profit opportunity for the want of a junior actuarial student who could point out how to do things properly.

  6. I can’t decide whether the biggest irony here is that now the IPCC has debunked the alarmists’ pseudo-science, the alarmists have taken to rejecting the scientific consensus, or that the biggest, nastiest ‘debate’ in years has been rendered entirely irrelevant by technological progress.

    Either way, it’s definitely noteworthy that the IPCC has said quite clearly that climate change isn’t going to be a problem. Not only are we not on course for RCP 8.5, we’re undershooting the lowest RCP. AR5 was very clear that we don’t face more than a degree of warming at the most, and that a degree won’t be noticeably harmful.

  7. Tim, you wrongly assume they are trying to present an honest position, but that their economic understanding is flawed. We know perfectly well by now that they know perfectly well that none of this is real (that is, global warming) and that they intentionally run scare campaigns to keep the funding and donations and cocktail parties flowing. This is not hard to find information. They been caught way too many times making stuff up or admitting to the basic scam. Giving them the continuing benefit of the doubt just makes you appear foolish.

  8. ‘For example, we know very well that solar is going to become properly price competitive in the next few years.’

    . . . when Parliament overturns the laws of physics.

  9. Well good on ’em.
    Nice short range prediction.
    2025 comes round with folk still holidaying in Dubai & another bit of sooth-saying’ll bite the dust.
    When will these people learn? Keep crying wolf does not enhance credibility. The world’s coastal cities have not flooded, it still snows in England in winter & Clacton is not a Mediterranean resort. All predictions for 2015. So why’s this one going to be any better?

  10. In the 15th century people were panicking saying the country was hitting “peak tree” and they would run out of wood to burn for domestic and industrial heating, but that just meant it became viable to invest in improving extraction and processing technology to use that weird black burnable rock those weird Cathays used.

  11. Bloke in Costa Rica

    2100 is eighty-five years away. For all we know, by then if we don’t want the Persian Gulf to be too hot we’ll just tell it not to. It’s as far distant from today as 1930, but given the pace of technological development it might well be beyond the singularity and thus unable to be modelled even in principle.

  12. humid heat in the Persian Gulf beyond human tolerance

    It gets too hot sometimes in lots of places, people survive. Then there is air-con, make indoors comfortable.

    It gets too cold here in UK, real proper killing cold sometimes, so we stay indoors and use heating, gets much colder in many places where folk live.

  13. The RCPs are not predictions nor projections. They were commissioned as data inputs to climate models with the end goal given as an assumption.

    RCP 8.5 basically amounts to someone telling a scientist, “Assume that in the year 2100 we have achieved 8.5 watts per square meter in forcing. What are the intermediate levels between today and 2100. And by the way–can you think of a plausible story line that shows what would have to happen to get there?”

    Obviously they’re still working on the plausible story line.

    Every paper written by RCP contributors specifically states that they are not predictions nor projections and should not be used as such. Nobody listens.

    They are scenarios with the conclusion given as the initial assumption.

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