We Are All ‘Climate Test Dummies’ Now, Providing Data On How Humans Respond To Extreme Weather

crashtestdummy_1293127881We have turned ourselves into test subjects for the single most terrifying “crash” the world will ever know — the crash of a livable climate.

Since we have done so wittingly, and continue blissfully subjecting ourselves to the impending climate crash without making any serious effort to stop it in spite of the gravest warnings from the most credible sources, that makes us little better than crash test dummies:

Crash test dummies are full-scale anthropomorphic test devices (ATD) that simulate the dimensions, weight proportions and articulation of the human body, and are usually instrumented to record data about … velocity of impact, crushing force, bending, folding, or torque of the body, and deceleration rates during a collision for use in crash tests…. Crash test dummies remain indispensable in the development of … all types of vehicles….

I offer this definition of the other CTDs and ATDs:

Climate test dummies are full-scale anthropocene test dummies (ATDs) that simulate exactly the dimensions, weight proportions and articulation of the human body, and usually record or complain about the impact of off-the-charts heat, rainfall, floods, snow, fire, dust or drought during a collision with extreme weather for use in climate tests. Or, rather, climate test, because we only get one and unlike cars we don’t get to go back and redesign the planet or the energy system to avoid the otherwise easily preventable suffering.”

If you want to know how humans respond to 115° temperature, you don’t have to wait a few decades — just drop by Hill City, Kansas:

Hell, it’s the hottest place on earth,” Allen Trexler, an 81-year-old farmer who introduced himself as Old Man Trexler….

On Saturday, Mr. Trexler loaded three heifers into a maroon trailer and trundled them 70 miles to Oakley to sell them.

“We’re just going to have to sell,” said his son Brad, 58. “There’s no way out. Every time they take a bite of that grass, it’s gone. It doesn’t come back. There’s nothing to farm right now. Nothing will grow.”

… “We’ve still got two more months of this crap,” [another farmer] said.

I know you’re thinking that we really didn’t have to subject ourselves to all this misery in order to figure out how unpleasant and self-destructive it is. But you’re “thinking” like some sort of homo sapiens sapiens. Whereas CTDs must at least drop one of those “wise” appellations and make the other one provisional, as in homo “sapiens.”

If you want to know how humans respond to a super-charged derecho that knocks out power to millions during the worst June heat wave on record — “the largest non-hurricane-related power outages in Virginia’s history and more damage in the Midwest than Hurricane Ike in 2008″ — come to DC! Or wait a few years, I’m sure something similar will happen in your area.

Radar sequence of derecho thunderstorm complex. Storm traveled about 600 miles in 10 hours at an average speed of 60 mph. (Storm Prediction Center)

Capital Weather Gang meteorologist Jason Samenow has a good article (source of above image), “Derecho: Behind Washington, D.C.’s destructive thunderstorm outbreak, June 29, 2012.” He explains how the record smashing heatwave fueled the superstorm, which leads him to ponder the climate connection:

As the intensity of the heat wave, without reservation, was a key factor in the destructiveness of this derecho event – it raises the question about the possible role of manmade climate warming (from elevated greenhouse concentrations). It’s a complicated, controversial question, but one that scientists will surely grapple with in case studies of this rare, extraordinary event.

It is complicated in the case of a super-destructive derecho where they aren’t normally seen. But global warming has “juiced” the entire climate, as if it were on steroids, so I agree with Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who told the NY Times in 2010:

It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”

I expect that future generations will look at all this great CTD data we have accumulated and conclude that starting around 2010, global warming and Arctic sea ice loss caused a quantum jump in extreme weather:

“The climate has shifted to a new state capable of delivering rare & unprecedented weather events,” explained Weather Underground director of meteorology and former hurricane hunter, Dr. Jeff Masters.

Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research explained at RealClimate how global warming sharply increases the likelihood of ‘outlandish’ heat waves, concluding:

So in summary: even in the most simple, linear case of a shift in the normal distribution, the probability for “outlandish” heat records increases greatly due to global warming. But the more outlandish a record is, the more would we suspect that non-linear feedbacks are at play – which could increase their likelihood even more.

Of course, those future generations won’t have much use for most of this “data” we’re gathering because the off-the-charts extreme events we’re experiencing now will just be their normal climate. Who can even imagine the kind of extreme events they’ll be experiencing after warming this century that is poised to exceed last century’s warming  by a factor of 5 warm more than five times times that or more this century (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F)?

Oh, and if you don’t like the term “climate test dummy,” don’t worry, I’m quite certain that if we keep listening to the do-little and do-nothing crowds future generations will come up with far, far stronger language to describe us. Another option is that we could take action now to avert the worst impacts. But then that’s not what CTDs do.

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38 Responses to We Are All ‘Climate Test Dummies’ Now, Providing Data On How Humans Respond To Extreme Weather

  1. M Tucker says:

    More like lab rats. Test dummies don’t need food, water, and electricity. Test dummies don’t complain and don’t suffer. I just heard a report about the folks in Bethesda waiting for the emergency truck of ice so they can try to save some of the perishable food that has been warming since Friday night. I’m sure Bethesda is not the only community needing emergency ice trucked in. What if all those folks rose up and said, “Enough is enough. We demand action now?” But they won’t because for the majority of them it is just weather. Bad weather. Unusual weather. But just weather…nothing to see here…move along.

  2. Thank you for your excellent post.

  3. Andy says:

    Fatal chronic kidney disease in Latin American cane field workers is also appearing in outdoor laborers in other warm climates. Likely there are many parts of the world where working outdoors in the heat is already going to kill you. Of course this exacerbated by employers who don’t allow their workers to halt in the mid-day or take enough rest breaks. But this does show that the current climate already taxes the human body. Any additional heat is not going to make things better and will, if nothing else, greatly reduce the productivity of outdoor laborers. That should get even the most rabid climate change denying business person to start thinking. I’ve heard this story on NPR and other places, but here’s a link to an MSNBC story.

  4. catman306 says: sold to The Weather Channel Companies

    The Weather Channel is owned by NBC.
    NBC is owned by General Electric.

    I hope the Wunderground site remains as is.

  5. joyce says:

    I saw that, too. I’m wondering if Jeff Masters will still be able to write his terrific blog–and tell it like it is…

  6. Snapple says:

    A branch about a foot in diameter stabbed right through my roof like a spear and into my new kitchen. We were not in town, but the guy who does our yard called and they got a patch on it. Fortunately, the whole roof didn’t cave in.

    Many news articles have said that global warming contributed to the strength of this derecho.

    We don’t have any power, either. I am days away, and my spouse returned and has to deal with it all because I am taking care of a sick relative.

    So many people are having a really tough time.

  7. Joe Romm says:

    Well, lab rats, like frogs with brains, would get the frig out of the boiling water!

  8. catman306 says:

    I wonder how many politicians, lobbyists, and media people are without power in the DC area? I can hope it’s a large number. Maybe this can get their attention fixed on reality, not the spin they are used to dealing with.

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The last two years around the world has just been one long string of climate disasters of all types, many of them totally previously unknown to their victims. Certainly looks like a phase change to me.

    I looked 115F up on my C/F thermometer and it is only 45C. It can get a lot hotter than that and you can survive it without air conditioning as long as you follow some commonsense rules and know how to keep your house relatively cool. Might be a good idea to start learning, ME

  10. Wit's End says:

    The weather IS extreme, but not enough to explain the volume of trees which have withstood far worse actual hurricanes with much fiercer winds, and they WERE STILL FALLING today long after the storm. The trees are just rotted, that’s all. They are smashing into power lines and they are burning like crazy in wildfires.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    I bet some find a lucrative business with it. These people don’t care about our future and are not capable to understand the bug picture. In this bigger picture the human race degenerates from sea level rise, food/water shortage, ozone hole induced cancers, contaminated foodchains, war, terror and anarchy. We are on path to civilization collapse and there is nothing (yet) to take the situation serious.

    There is not a single program i know of which comes close to what would be a response, to combat the threat of dangerous climate change.

    We are not dummy’s we are casualties of greed and stupidity. The entire system fails when it comes to response time. Risk management has failed us big time.

    We need mandatory actions, we need global biochar programs, we need global renewable energy.

    We have to fight fossil fuel combustion!

  12. The billion dollar PR campaign has succeeded wildly in confining public debate to causes, skeptical doubt and natural variability.

    We have been totally removed from discussing reaction or strategies for mitigation. And heavens, there is almost no discussion about limiting carbon combustion.

    Figure that starting decades ago – many trillions of dollars were spent on carbon fuels – we knew then – and certainly we know know, this should not have been spent on carbon energy. An amazing business coup by the carbon fuel industry.

    Now it is a survival test for all humans. It is long past time for us to speak plainly and openly about the problem.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    We need the war on Fossil Fuel and Co2. Nothing less will safe us!

    We are casualties of our actions, in the face of dangerous climate change!

  14. Lore says:

    Our NA forests are on the verge of collapse due to decades of disease. Most of which has been imported to the continent.

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Last week global warming’s wrath swept through the United States and hardly anybody took notice. The worst wildfires in Colorado and Utah history torched hundreds of homes and miles of forest. The Waldo Canyon fire alone, which is still only 45% contained, burned 350 houses right down to the ground. Some residents returned yesterday to find their cars turned to scraps.

    Then the searing heat wave that exacerbated these fires marched on, joining forces with a furious hurricane-force wind storm that ripped through several states on the east coast. More than 3 million people are without power amid temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit plus and could remain that way for a week or more. At least 17 people have died. Yet the world has been mostly silent; oil drillers drill on; new deals are signed.

    This is what our future looks like, but worse

    These fires, these storms, these are our future, and their fury will only grow. New records are being set every year. It’s only June, as environmentalist and founder Bill McKibben pointed out in a recent Guardian article, and already there have been four named tropical storms in the United States. Normally this doesn’t happen until August.

    In addition to being extraordinarily uncomfortable and even deadly, these disasters are costly. Colorado has spent $8.8 million on fighting the Waldo Canyon Fire alone. Add that to the costs of fighting fires in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana as well, along with repairs of downed power lines in the east, new cars and houses, and nationwide clean up.

    Cleaning up after ourselves: that is what we and future generations are going to be doing from now on. Cleaning up the mess our greed has made since the onset of the industrial revolution. We are going to pay the price of all those power plants and all those carbon emissions and it will become increasingly difficult to focus on anything else.

    Though we may not have hurricanes in our part of the world, our wildfires will grow more intense as well. And we know – all too well – about high temperatures and drought. But lacking the west’s sophisticated information infrastructure, we are less-well equipped to track the changes, which means it is harder to put escalating disasters into perspective.

    Nonetheless, here are a few examples of global-warming related issues we should watch this summer:

    Saudi Arabia has warned residents to brace themselves for extreme heat this Ramadan, which will start around the 20 July this year. “Temperatures this summer will be higher than average in most parts of the country. It will reach 50 degrees Celsius in the shade,” said Murad Hashim, assistant undersecretary for climatic affairs and applied studies at the Regional Center for Drought Monitoring and Early Warning. The highest temperature recorded at Mecca since 1980 was was 49.7 degrees Celsius on Aug. 7, 2010.
    In 2010, severe drought in Russia brought Egypt to its knees. Why so? Because Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat and Russia is a major supplier. So is the United States, but forecasters are expecting a 50% reduction in grain stockpiles as a result of extended drought and heat and prices have already risen. Egypt will not get through this unscathed.
    Fires in southern Lebanon destroyed 46.7 acres of grassland and fruit trees last week. Following the winter freeze that destroyed 75% of bee populations in some areas of the country earlier this year, the country’s agricultural industry is at serious risk.
    High temperatures and virtually no rainfall is a deadly combination. Add an influx of refugees fleeing from Assad’s reign of terror in Syria and Jordan is battling to keep pace with demand. Tens of thousands of Syrians are seeking refuge in Jordan, which is one of the top ten driest countries in the world. “The majority of Syrian refugees are concentrated in the northern cities of Mafraq, Irbid, Ramtha, Jerash and Ajlun. All of these areas already suffer from water shortage,” Fayez Bataineh, secretary general of the Water Authority, told AFP.
    As temperatures rise and with it power outages (some parts of Lebanon are without power 12 hours a day), the use of diesel generators will climb as well. Each gallon of diesel fuel produces, on average, about 22.2 lb of carbon emissions, further fueling the source of our climate change woes.
    What can you do?

    Avoid driving as much as possible. Use public transportation if you can and install a solar system at your home if you have the financial resources to do so. These problems will intensify, so the better prepared you are the better. Just think: the Lebanese goat farmer who installed a photovoltaic system at his house is able to stay cool and continue with business as normal while many of his peers are sweltering in the proverbial dark.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    Up to 90 taiga wildfires burned in the Far East of Russia on June 29, 2012. According to the ITAR-TASS news agency, the fires had burned more than 2,000 hectares (8 square mile) over the course of a day.
    The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the fires on June 29, 2012. Thick smoke blankets the northern portion of Khabarovsky Krai and is visible blowing west toward Sakhalinskaya and the Pacific Ocean. The red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected the unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fires.
    Russian firefighters have battled uncontrolled fires for months. According to the environmental group Greenpeace, more land in Russia has burned this year than in 2010, a year during which intense wildfires affected western Russia.
    It isn’t uncommon for smoke from large wildfires to be lofted high enough into the atmosphere that winds push plumes of it all the way across the Pacific Ocean to the United States.

    More land in Russia has burned this year than in 2010.

  17. catman306 says:

    “Mickey Mouse pushes fossil fuels in this 1985 comic book

    By Jess Zimmerman

    Matt Novak of Paleofuture has been posting photos of a 1985 Disney comic touting the benefits of oil pipelines and coal. What’s really striking is how much it genuinely sounds like Republican talking points. I guess Goofy is the American public, Mickey is the GOP, and whoever does Mickey’s voice is the Koch brothers.”

    See Mickey and friends shill for fossil fuel 27 years ago to the youngsters of the day.

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    Yes, we are doing an experiment. An uncontrolled, unintentional, continuous, experiment. An experiment with our entire planet, our entire atmosphere (and the oceans), an experiment with all the weather that ever will be.

    We only have one shot.

    We’ve been warned against pushing the experiment too hard — that simply going about our daily lives, our business as usual, portends risks beyond ordinary imagination.

    There are some experiments you should just not do.

  19. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent article Joe, absolutely excellent.

    I’m going to take a little creative license with what you wrote there:

    “I expect that future generations will look at all this great CTD data we have accumulated and conclude that starting around 2010” was when we lost our minds and didn’t address climate change when we could have….

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    Check the price of corn.

  21. adelady says:

    “I expect that future generations will …. conclude that starting around 2010, global warming and Arctic sea ice loss caused a quantum jump in extreme weather:”

    That’s a bit like watching the Olympics and concluding that the winning long jump was due to the final spring in the step. Taking note of the speed and strength of the run up isn’t too much to ask. Is it?

    Acknowledging the years to decades of prior training might help a bit as well.

  22. riverat says:

    Most of the politicians are out of town for the 4th of July holiday.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Really, does anyone believe that a species dominated by those who will work hard labouring men to an early death, by not allowing them water, is going to survive?

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Quite often I am left wondering if it is really ‘unintentional’.

  25. Mike Roddy says:

    The media, as you know, has been the great enable here. It’s time for a new electronic newspaper that includes a daily feature showing how msm is bought. Most Americans have no idea why they rarely here about global warming on TV or in newspapers, including electronic ones.

  26. Cheryl says:

    The only action humans need to take, is to stop having so many kids! Stop wanting other people to do something while ignoring the best thing anybody can do for the planet.

  27. Cheryl says:

    Thanks very much for your commentary, Prokaryotes! Really interesting and informative.

  28. NBC is ownership is 51% Comcast, 49% GE, since January 28, 2011.

    Comcast is controlled by CEO and founder’s son, Brian L. Roberts…

  29. laszlo semble says:

    if all this is true–that the dangerous and irreversible feedback loops we’ve been warned about have indeed kicked in–there won’t be any future generations to read all this fascinating data.

  30. Joe Romm says:

    Sure there will. There just may not be as many.

  31. Lisa Boucher says:

    It’s rather interesting that the National Weather Service significantly changed their web site on the same day.

  32. Rakesh Malik says:

    I’ve already taken to referring to us as “homo retardus.”

  33. jeb says:

    When Heidi Cullen of The Weather Channel started doing her feature on global warming, the same corporate dirty energy anti-science deniers simply bought up TWC, cancelled Heidi’s global warming spot, and then cancelled her. Same thing here, bye bye Jeff Masters, Wunderground will go underground on anything global warming…

  34. jeb says:

    For any Republicans that might stumble in here, this is a comment from another post, but should be something for conservative deniers to ponder, and hopefully stop their denying… “By the time the full impact of climate change has wreaked its havoc on this planet, the word “conservative” will be such an epithet that the FCC will probably have to censor it from the airwaves. Such will be the understandable disgust that humanity at large will have on the conservatives of 1990 to the present who are, by their trenchant stubborn ignorance, making this coming chaos our inevitable reality.”

  35. petronelle says:

    Thank you, Gail: keep putting it out there!

  36. Raul M. says:

    Don’t know , for example, if our spirit is considered as climate forcing and the city in the sky is considered as the atmospheric emmissions, the negative climate forcings would need to be corralary to the modern dammage and space travel would also need to have exponential growth.

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes, Rakesh, but I would never do it. It’s wrong, it’s wicked, it does not even make ‘business sense’. A man works better if well hydrated and rested when exhausted, with higher productivity. This sort of atrocity illustrates a pre-eminent feature of the Rightwing personality type which dominates our species. Their hatred of other people, their absolute misanthropy, their delight in inflicting harm on others. That’s what is killing us-the dominance of our species by the very worst types, with the most twisted psyches, amongst us.

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The lab rats analogy reminds me of a cartoon I saw in a UK magazine, many moons ago. It showed two ‘scientists’ inspecting a cage, full of rats. One scientist ticks off a list, ‘Overcrowding, noise, pollution, rubbish diet and stress..’ The other boffin asks, ‘What are the results, so far?’, to which the first replies, ‘They’ve just elected a Conservative Government’. It doesn’t seem quite so hilarious, anymore.