“Risky Business,” a cleverly titled report on climate change released Tuesday by Risky Business Project co-chairs former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and billionaire philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer, has gone one step further than most other climate change analyses by taking humidity into account. The study, conducted by Rhodium Group and Risk Management Solutions with the support of a bipartisan group of politicians, scientists and business executives, predicts that the worst heat and humidity combinations in this century in the U.S. will center in an unexpected region: the Upper Midwest. Reuters reports: The highest heat-plus-humidity reading in the United States was in 1995 in Appleton, Wisconsin, when the outside temperature was 101F. While the Upper Midwest is not known for tropical conditions, climate research shows that it will experience more warming than lower latitudes as well as more humidity. As a result, the deadliest heat-and-humidity combinations are expected to center around that region, with threads reaching to the Eastern Seaboard and islands of dangerous conditions along the northwest Pacific coast. The report predicts that rising heat and humidity will cause an additional 11,000 to 36,000 deaths per year in the coming century. The negative impact of humidity reported in “Risky Business” is just the tip of the iceberg. The report seeks to skirt the partisan divides usually associated with global warming debates by emphasizing the massive economic threat that climate change poses. Some readers may be frightened into action by the reports’ promises of 10 percent declines in crop yields and billions of dollars worth of severe weather damage along America’s coastlines. For others, the mere thought of frequent 101-degree days with soaring humidity may do the trick.
Hannah Gelbort is a Summer 2014 editorial intern.