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We are all ‘Climate Test Dummies’ now, providing data on how humans respond to extreme weather

We 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.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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