Global warming = smelly armpits

One of the best things about living in a cold climate is an almost complete absence of armpit stink. Women aren’t supposed to get smelly armpits but we do in fact get just as smelly as men. Perhaps we have the heating too low in our home here in Scotland but for whatever reason, I find I can wear the same top two days in a row, sometimes even three, and it still doesn’t smell. This would never happen in Auckland or Brisbane. Sometimes I had to change tops multiple times a day in Auckland.

Over at …andThenTheresPhysics, there has been some discussion about the impacts of climate change. However no-one has mentioned body odour. Just think how smelly our society will become and how much extra washing we’ll need to do in a hotter world. On the plus side it could spell big dollars for manufacturers of deodorant and perfume.

Ok, so who cares about smelly armpits? It’s pretty trivial and I’m not really being serious although I do appreciate not having stinky, sweaty armpits all the time. What does concern me is that the world could be 4°C warmer than pre-industrial times by the end of this century. While this doesn’t sound like very much, a change of 5°C in the other direction was enough to bring on an ice age. In this context, 4°C is pretty huge.

Most of the population on our planet lives in hot places. What does this mean for these people? Physiologically humans cannot survive in wet bulb (100% humidity) temperatures above 35°C for sustained periods of time. Our bodies cannot dissipate metabolic heat fast enough and we suffer heat stroke, organ damage, loss of consciousness, and eventually death.

Our crops will also suffer. Once the temperature hits 1°C above preindustrial, wheat, rice, and maize are expected to be negatively affected (except for a few regions which may see a benefit). While some plants will benefit from the extra CO2, these same plants are negatively affected by temperature and they also contain less protein and valuable nutrients.

There’s already some evidence that global warming was a contributing factor to the crisis in Syria. When people have nothing to eat due to prolonged drought, they’re not going to sit at home and starve to death. I know I wouldn’t. Dylan Thomas’ poem is alive in all of us; our desire to live is one of the reasons we’re still here.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The wealthy countries of the world have already shown their reluctance to accept refugees. So when it gets too hot and crops consistently fail, where are all these people going to go?

The solutions to the problem seem fairly obvious to me: carbon tax, investment in renewable and nuclear energy, eat more plant-based foods, invest in cycling infrastructure, make our cities walkable and cyclable …. When I see letters to the editor complaining about the appearance of a wind farm in the Scottish countryside, I want to bang my head against a wall. It’s about as trivial as me fearing global warming for the sake of my armpits. Why wasn’t the author of this letter, who happened to be a resident of Aberdeen, complaining about the ghastliness of Aberdeen harbour? Aberdeen harbour has been completely trashed by the oil industry and is the ugliest harbour I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It also happens to be right in the middle of our city. The wind farm is miles away and something we rarely see. They are also no worse, aesthetically-speaking, than power pylons and they look miles better that coal mines.

Wind farms represent a non-carbon source of energy for us and our children and grand-children. They also lesson our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Despite all the oil in the North Sea, the UK is a net importer of fossil fuels. I sometimes hear people complain that renewable energy sources like wind farms and solar panels are costing too much and we shouldn’t have to subsidise them. Why does no-one complain about the tax-payer burden on decommissioning oil rigs in the North Sea? All those oil rigs out there have to eventually be decommissioned and guess who has to pay for it? The taxpayer. Why is it not acceptable to subsidise an industry at the beginning of its life but it is acceptable to subsidise it at the end?

Please note that I’m not a wind-farm-only advocate. I vote for all forms of carbon-free energy including hydropower, geothermal, solar, nuclear, wind, and biomass. We’re going to need all of it and I don’t want to lose my creature-comforts. Anyway, I seem to have gone off on a tangent here so perhaps I’ll leave it at that.