“The Human Limit” begins series run

“The Human Limit” begins series run

The Washington Post today announced “The Human Limit,” a series exploring who is most at risk as a new wave of climate-fueled disease threatens humanity. These threats, some tied to higher temperatures and others from the pathogens and toxins finding swifter passage in a warmer world, have left many countries ill-prepared. Through its global sweep, on-the-ground reporting in some of the world’s most threatened locations and high-level analysis, the series will shine a light on the people whose health could suffer the most because of climate change, and the ways that societies will struggle to adapt.

To document one of the most widespread threats – extreme heat – The Post and CarbonPlan, a nonprofit that develops publicly available climate data, used new models and massive data sets to produce the most up-to-date predictions of how often people in nearly 15,500 cities would face such intense heat that they could quickly become ill – in the near-term and over the coming decades. The analysis is based on a measure called wet-bulb globe temperature, which takes into account air temperature, humidity, radiation and wind speed, and is increasingly used by scientists to determine how heat stresses the human body. To reach these estimates, The Post and CarbonPlan combined one of the most detailed sets of historic heat data with the latest climate projections produced by NASA supercomputers, offering one of the most detailed estimates of heat stress at a local level ever produced.

“We are deeply committed to covering the changing climate and the risks it poses to humanity. While those risks have often been discussed in terms of the future, this series shows how climate change is making people sick — and even killing them — now. It also provides some of the most groundbreaking analysis about the threat of extreme heat — one of the most insidious threats — ever performed,” said Zachary Goldfarb, Climate & Environment Editor. “The work could only be done thanks to talented editors, reporters, graphics and data journalists, photographers, videographers and designers — as well as the researchers at CarbonPlan.”

The Post has made climate coverage a pillar of its news strategy and last year dramatically expanded its investment in the subject. The recent expansion has included visual and data journalists, as well as an intensified focus on extreme weather. “The Human Limit” project involves a deep collaboration involving the Climate & Environment, International, Photo, Video, Data and Design departments.

For the first story in the series, Annie Gowen traveled with freelance photographer Saiyna Bashir to Bagh Yusuf, Hyderabad, Sehwan and Jacobabad in Sindh province, Pakistan, which was hardest hit by historic floods last year, to document how that nation has become ground zero for climate-related health impacts. Climate graphics reporter Niko Kommenda, based in London, worked with Oriana Chegwidden and Jeremy Freeman at CarbonPlan to develop detailed projections for extreme heat in Pakistan and around the globe. In the second piece, Niko teamed up with three other members of the Climate team – Shannon Osaka, Simon Ducroquet and Veronica Penney – to showcase the analysis’ biggest findings and explain how rising temperatures will transform the way we work and live in the coming decades.

Additional stories in the series will be published throughout September and the remainder of 2023. For more information, check out the series.

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