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.

30 thoughts on “Global warming = smelly armpits

  1. I hate thinking about climate change and that the Australian government is doing nothing about it.

    Smelly armpits are much less traumatic to talk about. I’m glad that Aberdeen and your armpits are eminently compatible. I feel the same about where I live. Such a welcome change from a humid climate where I felt less than clean most of the time. It’s pure luxury to be able to wear clothes more than once without washing. 🙂

    1. Living in a cold climate is a very welcome change. I hate that sweaty, sticky feeling and I hate the smell even more. I’m glad to hear you’re also enjoying your climate.

  2. There must something useful about smelly armpits. Some evolutionary something or other. Have they always been the bane, affliction, blight, burden, despair, curse, disaster etc etc that deodorant companies have us to believe?

    1. I’ve heard that we’re attracted to the smell when it comes from the opposite sex but I don’t find the smell of body odour particularly attractive.

      1. Yes, I’ve heard about the pill effect. There’s a difference between sweaty armpits and a person’s general scent. I was specifically referring to stinky armpits. Fortunately I was not on the pill when I met my husband and I still like his smell 🙂

      1. It’s not that silly. The Thames Barrier gets a lot of tourists, most of them from the South East of England.

        More seriously, I think future generations will accept them as a familiar part of the landscape. I’d imagine some peasants in the middle ages would have seen old windmills as a blight on the landscape. They just weren’t allowed to whinge about it.

  3. Hear Hear!
    As someone who has just lived through a 42C day (the hottest recorded in 100 years here in CT) I agree about global warming and the detrimental effects on the whole planet. A rise of even 1C will cause significant problems. There are solutions out there as you suggest. I don’t know why we are not implementing them!

    1. 42C is very hot. I don’t think I ever experienced anything that hot growing up in Brisbane. Although Brisbane tends to be humid which is often worse.

      1. It is pretty humid in CT – which is why we always look for a breeze! But Durban is the worst place to live for humidity!
        I preferred Jo’burg, as it was a dry heat. 🙂

  4. I saw an interesting documentary last year, quite an old one, about the commmunities destroyed in the 1970’s to make way for the oil stuff in Aberdeen harbour, and there was an outcry then.
    I have said before that I find motorways, airports, big buildings and suchlike all spoil the landscape for me, so what are a few more wind turbines. They are already painting some of them an interesting shade of grey that means they blend in with the landscape more, and scenic areas are protected. You can’t even see the ones in the Ochils unless you are actually in the hills.

    I think the poster above who suggested people will get used to them is right.
    If you look at the figures, thanks mainly to windpower, Scotland is on course to get most of its electricity from renewables, I just wish they’d hurry up with the tidal stream power stuff and build a couple more nuclear stations. Also some sort of interesting method of storing a few gigawatts would be handy for when the wind isn’t blowing, although that is also why we have undersea interconnectors.

    1. Yes, I agree with you about motorways, airports, and big (modern) buildings. Motorways and carparks are particularly ugly, especially those big multi-story carparks. I’ve never felt the same way about wind farms and have always found them attractive. Hopefully people will eventually get used to them.

      I’m also pleased to hear there was an outcry when they began trashing Aberdeen harbour. It’s a shame the outcry did not prevent it from happening. I didn’t also realise that communities were destroyed. That’s very sad. The oil industry has been here for 40 odd years now and I can’t see how they’ve invested in the city to improve it. All the beautiful things, like Duthie Park and Marischal College, were here long before the oil industry and were built by the Victorians. What has the oil industry given back to the city to make up for trashing the harbour? If they built something attractive, I am yet to see it.

  5. I don’t like wind farms but, do recognise that such things are the price that we must pay for being so slow in coming to terms with the effect of CO2. If we do not bite the bullet, and many of them, then we shall be mortally wounded by the consequences.

      1. They are a a moving intrusion upon the landscape. They are not very efficient. Infra-sound is a disturbance. Not viable without subsidy. Land space cannot be used for any other purpose. But, no choice now even including development of tidal power and hydro.

  6. I don’t share your views on ‘global warming’, but I’m glad to read that you support nuclear power. Scotland with only five million people, might be able to get by without it, whenever Hunterston and Torness get decommissioned, but England, with a population level more than ten times that of Scotland, certainly can’t. As for the Aberdonian oil industry, which is suffering from the global collapse in oil prices, if Nicola Sturgeon thinks that we are going to bail it out, she can think again.

    1. I’m not sure what you think my views on global warming are. If it’s just that I find wind farms attractive then sure, that’s my view and many people do disagree with me. If it’s that the Earth has warmed by 0.85C since preindustrial and that we could see 4C by the end of century, or that humans can’t survive wet bulb temperatures of 35C for extended periods, or that the crops we eat are going to be negatively affected by temperature rise and so on, then these are not my views. I’m just reporting the science. It’s no different from me saying that vaccination prevents disease.

      I think the UK needs nuclear power as solar is never going to do much here and although wind can make a significant contribution, from what I have read it’s insufficient to power the UK if we are to use the same amount of energy we use today. So yes, I do not object to nuclear power although I would prefer to see investment in fourth generation nuclear rather than old technology.

      1. ‘Global warming’ may be happening but there has been climate change since the year dot. When the Romans ruled what is now England and Wales they settled because the climate was mild enough for them and they introduced vineyards, of which we now have a small number as far north as Shropshire, but didn’t have any for hundreds of years. Climate change in future could result in global cooling.

        Incidentally onshore wind farms are a highly subsidised tax scam for wealthy landowners. If they were built with any degree of longevity in mind, each turbine would require its own access road (very green) for maintenance vehicles. All wind farms onshore or offshore require connection to the transmission network, with undergrounding of the power lines costing about ten times that of putting them overhead.

        Re nuclear power, research into a suitable scale and economically viable fusion reactor has been going on for the past 35 years at Culham Laboratory in Oxfordshire. Ever since it started a commercially viable fusion reactor has been on a rolling 50 years into the future, so a new generation of fission reactors is essential.

        BTW are you aware that the North Sea oil industry only became economically viable after the Arab oil embargo in 1973 and the subsequent foundation of OPEC? What has depleted the gas fields was the ‘dash for gas’ following the privatisation of the electricity industry 25 years ago. Gas-fired power stations were built, each with a projected life span of no more than a decade, though some still operate on a limited basis.

      2. Yes it’s true that the climate has changed. The Earth has swung from hot house to snowball Earth and back again. It was carbon dioxide that acted as the control knob for these changes. As long as humans are around there won’t be another ice age because we know how to prevent one by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Of course we may not be around forever and so there may well be another snowball Earth at some stage.

        However it’s important to remember these climatic changes in the past have been accompanied by mass extinctions. One of these was the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) which saw Earth’s temperature rise by more than 5°C over a few thousand years. There were no humans on Earth at this time so we have not evolved in such temperatures. We’re also looking at a rise of 4°C above preindustrial by the end of this Century (we’re at 0.85°C right now) and so the rate of change is very rapid which makes it difficult for humans and other plants and animals to adapt. The PETM was about 56 million years ago. Humans appeared only about 200,000 years ago. More on the PETM here: http://www.palaeontologyonline.com/articles/2011/the-paleocene-eocene-thermal-maximum/

      3. I still believe that introducing punitive ‘climate change’ legislation anywhere in Europe is counterproductive, because all it will do is increase the likelihood of what manufacturing industry is left being outsourced to India and/or China, which have even lower environmental standards. So the planet won’t be ‘saved’ in any way.

        A good example is the steel industry, which already operates on tight margins and most of which in Britain is now owned by the Indian conglomerate Tata. Punitive ‘climate change’ legislation means that Tata will transfer those jobs to India and what is left here will be higher unemployment and increased welfare dependency in areas which are already economically depressed (Teesside and Sheffield in Northern England; Newport and Port Talbot in South Wales).

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