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Published: Tuesday 27 August, 2013

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A new study that looked at reasonable worstcase scenarios for global warming found that if greenhouse gases continue to be emitted at their current rate, temperatures could become deadly in coming centuries.

Researchers calculated the highest tolerable wetbulb temperature equivalent to what is felt when wet skin is exposed to moving air and found that this temperature could be exceeded for the first time in human history if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate and future climate models are correct. Temperatures this unbearable for humans havent been seen during the existence of hominids the primate family that includes ancient humans but they did occur about 50 million years ago.

Exposure to wetbulb temperatures above 95 degrees for six hours or more will create lethal stress levels in humans and other mammals, said study team member Matthew Huber of Purdue Universitys earth and atm outdoor wear kids ospheric sciences.

Huber said that while areas of the world regularly see temperatures above 100 degrees, really high wetbulb temperatures are rare because the hottest areas of the planet normally have low humidity think Arizonas dry heat. Areas of the world such as Saudi Arabia have the highest wetbulb temperatures near the coast where winds occasionally bring extremely hot, humid ocean air over hot land leading to unbearably stifling conditions. Although we are very unlikely to reach such temperatures this century, they could happen in the next.

The study did not address how likely this worstcase scenario is, only that it is possible based on socalled businessasusual warming models, which make projections assuming that greenhouse gases continue to be emitted at the rate they are today.

We found that a warming of 12 degrees Fahrenheit roughly 7 degrees Celsius would cause some areas of the world to surpass the wetbulb temperature limit, and a 21degree warming would put half of the worlds population in an uninhabitable environment, Huber said.

Whole countries would intermittently be subject to severe heat stress requiring largescale adaptation efforts, Huber added. One can imagine that such efforts, for example the wider adoption of air conditioning, would cause the power requirements to soar, and the affordability of such approaches is in question for much of the Third World that would bear the brunt of these impacts. In addition, the livestock on which we rely would still be exposed, an outdoor wear kids d it would make any form of outside work hazardous. outdoor wear kids