August 13, 2023 Reading Time: 5 minutes

An interesting and troubling double standard is applied to the acceptability of individual actions and those of political agents. An individual declaring an emergency when none exists, e.g., shouting “fire” in a crowded cinema, would lead to rightful punishment, yet public officials can do so without attracting the same scrutiny.

According to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, “the era of global warming has ended” and “the era of global boiling has arrived.” Of course, this statement was made with little or no sense of perspective or the possibility that any sensible human would challenge or refute it.

This comment is the latest reference relating to what is and has been going on with the weather and climate. After the warming showed a slowdown; climate change became the operative term, but this was found to be insufficiently alarming.

In turn, climate action became the necessary antidote to a “climate emergency” or “climate crisis.” Having gone full circle, with the focus back to the fetish with high temperatures during a seasonal, localized and predictable heatwave, the assertion is that we are in the midst of climate boiling.

Even with no knowledge of science, per se, recipe books point out that “boiling” occurs when water is heated to 212º Fahrenheit (100º Celsius) at sea level. For his part, it may be that the UN Boss knows that water will boil at lower temperatures at higher elevations, but he is unlikely to have been at such altitudes in his native Portugal to observe a boiling point close to recent global averages.

Although it is common for references regarding current weather to be over-stated, it does not necessarily indicate changes or trends in climatic conditions. Besides the notion of “boiling” temperatures, headlines that suggest current temperatures are “scorching” or “scalding” indicate a misunderstanding of what those terms mean.

It might be that using fear and pandering to ignorance is better than coercion to impose a narrative. Persuasion in search of cooperative arrangements is surely what should be expected of a liberal, representative democracy, but this is threatened just as much by “Left” as well as “Right” populism.

It turns out the use of extreme terms in the climate debate is not about either exaggeration or hyperbole, since exaggeration or hyperbole requires there be an element of truth in statements. Terms used to express the effect of high temperatures on the human body are misleading, disingenuous, and factually untrue.

Ginning up fear is a well-known technique of propaganda to support a narrative, as is the case of reports of momentary weather conditions as though they presage eventual or irrevocable climatic changes. An example of how an isolated weather event is portrayed as if it were evidence of a generalized view of overall conditions can be seen in a recent report on National Public Radio.  

Noting the measurements of a single water temperature sensor in Manatee Bay, near the Everglades National Park, reached 101.1 degrees, the data were declared to be “startling” as if they reflected high average temperatures in the Florida Bay area. It went on to declare that “scorching” temperatures “could” pose a major risk to coral and other marine life.

It is noteworthy that the word “could” in this context has no real content since such conditional expressions provide no insight into or substantiation of the likelihood of the referred event. Supporters of this narrative expect most citizens to be uncurious and to willingly accept assertions of political officials for the purpose of misleading or frightening them, so they submit to whatever remedial public policies are imposed.

In all events, there was no data to support the claim of “startling” water conditions in the rest of Florida Bay. Further, the claim that the temperatures are “scorching” is confusing, at best, since injury from water burns is commonly known as scalding.

Concerning scalding, second degree burns can occur from exposure for 3 seconds to water of 140°F, while a third degree burn requires at least 5 seconds of exposure at same temperature. As it is, the temperature of sea water measured from a single buoy off the Florida coast far from those temperatures and is variable over the course of 24 hours, up to 10 degrees less at night.

Of course, the heat in the ambient air is also far away from what would be “boiling” or “scorching” temperatures. But it turns out that there is no “settled science” on the maximum ambient temperatures that will cause heat distress.

In fact, more is known about the effect of low ambient temperatures on the human body. If the temperature falls below the lower limit, 82.4º Fahrenheit (28º Celsius), more energy is used to hold internal temperature at the optimum, and if temperatures are too low, shivering occurs causing involuntary muscular contractions to generate heat.

Thermoregulation of body temperature is necessary to sustain human life and survival of human cells to thrive rather than to overheat or die. The human body engages in homeostasis to maintain balance by keeping core internal temperature within a safe range, no matter what temperatures are outside the body, otherwise organ failures might occur.

Results of research conducted at the University of Roehampton indicates ambient temperatures exceeding 104º Fahrenheit (40º Celsius) might cause some humans to be unable to shed excessive heat so that body functions become abnormal. It points out that there is a “thermoneutral” zone of temperatures within which the body has no need to increase metabolic rate or use more energy to achieve the normal core temperature of 98.6º Fahrenheit (37º Celsius).

While high temperatures can impact cardiovascular health (e.g., during heatwaves or while fighting fires), it is not a matter of climate change. Blood clotting (i.e., thrombogenesis) can occur from exposure to long and uninterrupted exposure to extreme heat, but it depends on individuals’ physical characteristics and conditions.

Of course, few people are exposed to extremely high temperatures for lengthy periods, and if so, there are many evasive actions they can undertake to protect themselves. In all events, it is widely known that the biggest killer from extreme temperatures is from exposure in the low ranges of thermometer readings, even in Africa and Asia.

Unfortunately, the promotion of the “climate narrative” has been successful in inducing citizens to ignore how their liberties and rights are in jeopardy from the imposition of repressive public policies that are being answered as a solution. While Germans are being subjected to adopt expensive heat pumps, Americans are being chided for using gas ranges and the likelihood they might be banned from future installation. 

Alas, citizens have lost sight of the original intent behind the move from autocratic monarchy to democracy, which was to secure the rights of all citizens and support private property as the basis for human liberty and personal dignity.

While the American republic was founded to put a brake on political power and limit arbitrary rule, democracy is now presented as an “all-or-nothing” game such that any curbs on democratic governance will lead to its disappearance.

Most recently, governments around the world have found that frightening their citizens would induce them to accept, even applaud, repressive policies in exchange for the promise that individual citizens would be shielded from a single virus. The loss of rights and freedom in response to the fear conjured up during the COVID-19 pandemic is a harbinger of what will be claimed as necessary to avert the existential threat to humanity from extreme weather and changing climate.

Christopher Lingle

Christopher Lingle

Christopher Lingle is a Visiting Senior Fellow at AIER, Visiting Professor of Economics in the Escuela de Negocios at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, Research Scholar at the Centre for Civil Society (New Delhi), International Political Economic Advisor for the Asian Institute for Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA – Kathmandu), International Senior Fellow at the Property Rights Institute (USA), Senior Fellow at the Center for Market Education (Malaysia), & Senior Visiting Fellow, Advocata (Colombo, Sri Lanka).

His research interests are in the areas of Political Economy and International Economics with a focus on emerging market economies and public policy reform in East and Central Europe, East Asia, Latin America, and Southern Africa.

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