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An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress

Published on May 25, 2010in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America9.58
· DOI :10.1073/pnas.0913352107
Steven C. Sherwood40
Estimated H-index: 40
,
Matthew Huber39
Estimated H-index: 39
Abstract
Abstract Despite the uncertainty in future climate-change impacts, it is often assumed that humans would be able to adapt to any possible warming. Here we argue that heat stress imposes a robust upper limit to such adaptation. Peak heat stress, quantified by the wet-bulb temperature TW, is surprisingly similar across diverse climates today. TW never exceeds 31 °C. Any exceedence of 35 °C for extended periods should induce hyperthermia in humans and other mammals, as dissipation of metabolic heat becomes impossible. While this never happens now, it would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7 °C, calling the habitability of some regions into question. With 11–12 °C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed. Eventual warmings of 12 °C are possible from fossil fuel burning. One implication is that recent estimates of the costs of unmitigated climate change are too low unless the range of possible warming can somehow be narrowed. Heat stress also may help explain trends in the mammalian fossil record.
  • References (35)
  • Citations (324)
References35
Newest
#1Tord Kjellstrom (ANU: Australian National University)H-Index: 43
#2R. Sari Kovats (Lond: University of London)H-Index: 21
Last.Richard S.J. Tol (Economic and Social Research Institute)H-Index: 85
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#1Malte Meinshausen (University of Oxford)H-Index: 41
#2Nicolai Meinshausen (PIK: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)H-Index: 22
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#1Jason J. Head (STRI: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute)H-Index: 19
#2Jonathan I. Bloch (Florida Museum of Natural History)H-Index: 30
Last.Carlos Jaramillo (IU: Indiana University)H-Index: 2
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#1Takeshi Ise (JAMSTEC: Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology)H-Index: 4
#2Allison L. Dunn (Worcester State University)H-Index: 21
Last.Paul R. Moorcroft (Harvard University)H-Index: 37
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#1Noah S. Diffenbaugh (Purdue University)H-Index: 46
#2Filippo Giorgi (ICTP: International Centre for Theoretical Physics)H-Index: 90
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#1R. Mandal (Savitribai Phule Pune University)H-Index: 2
#2S. Joseph (IITM: Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology)H-Index: 13
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#1Linda Krummenauer (PIK: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)H-Index: 2
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#1Shuo Wang (PolyU: Hong Kong Polytechnic University)
#2Jinxin Zhu (PolyU: Hong Kong Polytechnic University)H-Index: 3
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