Get used to it: Scorchingly hot summers are here to stay

Let’s look at how July 2010 might stack up against the Julys of the future. Using climate models and a well-established statistical method for calculating shifts in average and extreme temperature, we can actually generate an informed projection of how July 2010 might compare with those in the years ahead—assuming we continue to pump heat-trapping gases into our atmosphere at a rate similar to today (what scientists refer to as the A1B scenario). In other words, we can estimate when July 2010—which ran about 4°F to 5°F hotter than average this year in the northeast—might become the average July…

With the high temperatures of this past July leading to brownouts throughout the northeast, it should come as no surprise that our aging power grid is currently ill-equipped to deal with demands like those that are likely to be placed on it by 2050—when the Census Bureau projects the United States will have roughly 130 million more people. Historically, for each 1.8°F of warming, cooling demand increases between 5% and 20% due to more people turning on air conditioners, refrigerators and then air conditioners having to work harder, higher resistance losses in transmission wires, and other factors. The end result of increasing heat and population growth is greater demand for electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates electricity demand by 2050 could be 50 percent higher than it is today.