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Rising temperatures change the way we behave

Despite Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s, insistence that he doesn’t believe in climate change, the evidence, as columnist Nicholas Kristol pointed out in New York Times editorial, is overwhelming. And it is much more harmful than we thought. Up until now, the focus of climate change research has been on rising sea levels, more intense storms, acidification of our oceans, and drought and crop failures. But the latest studies indicate that some of the most important effects will be on our own bodies and minds. A study being conducted by a Harvard PhD student compared the performances of New York students with the day’s temperatures. He found that students taking a New York state Regents exam on a 90-degree day had a 12 percent greater chance of failing than when the temperature was 72 degrees.

He also found that when a school year has an unusual number of hot days, students do worse at the end of the year on their Regents exams, apparently because they have learned less. A school year with five extra days above 80 degrees cause students to perform significantly worse on their Regents exams. The New York City students did poorly on hot days, although most of the schools are airconditioned. “If students in New York public schools are affected by heat stress, one can only imagine what it’s like for a student in Delhi,” the report noted.

Heat affects our bodies as well as our minds. In India, a rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit in average daily temperatures leads to a 30 percent increase in the annual mortality rate. Even in the more moderate temperatures enjoyed in the United States, heat can kill. A single say above 90 degrees increases the monthly mortality rate by more than one percent. Most people simply do not function as well when the temperature rises. In auto factories, a week of six days above 90 degrees reduces production by eight percent.

And, most frightening of all, rising temperatures increase violence. Extremes in climate lead to more killing, more war, more riots in Brazil, and more sectarian violence in India. Part of this behavior is attributable to the fact that heat makes people irritable. On hot days, murders increase with the temperature.

Apparently, 2016 will be the hottest year in recorded history, and each of the first six months this year set a record as the hottest ever, the hottest January, the hottest February and so on. We are living in a hotter world for which mankind is poorly adapted.