Hansen: Earth at Crisis Point

Article Updated: 24 Mar , 2012

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NASA’s lead climate scientist says Earth has reached a “tipping point” in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 385 parts per million. But James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies believes there are ways to solve the problems of excess greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Hansen submitted a paper to Science magazine today, which outlines a plan for phasing out all coal-fired plants by 2030 and taxing their emissions, as well as banning the building of any new plants unless they are designed to trap and segregate the carbon dioxide they emit. This plan would need the support of policy makers around the world. But Hansen believes policy makers in the US are ignorant about the significance and gravity of climate change because oil companies influence the executive and legislative branches of the US government. Oil interests are also trying to sway the public’s perception of global warming, Hansen said. “The industry is misleading the public and policy makers about the cause of climate change,” he said in an article published by the AFP news agency. “And that is analogous to what the cigarette manufacturers did. They knew smoking caused cancer, but they hired scientists who said that was not the case.”

Hansen, who testified before Congress in 2007 that the current Bush administration has interfered with his reports on the climate, said government public relations officials filter the facts in science reports to reduce “concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

Hansen has come under fire for “crying wolf” about how humans are affecting Earth’s climate, but he continues to speak out on the subject because he believes he has to. “It’s analogous to an engineer who sees that there’s a flaw in the space shuttle before it is to be launched. You don’t have any choice. You have to say something. That’s really all that I’m doing,” he said.

The AFP article reported that in a recent survey of what concerns people, global warming ranked 25th.

90% of energy needs on Earth are currently met by fossil fuels. Hansen has said that if we continue to use fossil fuels at the current rate, the Earth will warm 3 degrees Celcius by the end of the century. Hanson predicts this would mean ice sheets melting, and 50% of the species on earth would become extinct from the disruptions of regional climate change – for example, northern latitudes would get much warmer, the American Southwest would turn into a desert.

But, Hansen has said that if fossil fuel emissions would be just 25% less than at present by the middle of the century and 75% by the end of the century, Earth’s warming could be kept to less than 1 degree C.

Since the U.S. contributes 3-4 times the amount of atmospheric CO2 of any other country, U.S. involvement in change is critical.

Original News Source: AFP


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VINNY
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VINNY
April 7, 2008 11:18 AM

What I dont understand is what is so hard to wrap around? There were not 30 million and counting cars on the planet when the last “cycle” of warming occurred. Is it so crazy that we might actually have an effect? I mean really, how long is the list of species humans have made go extinct? Longer than I have the time to count. Could the release of billions of tons have some possible impact….. seems like a duh comment to me.

Owen
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Owen
April 7, 2008 9:06 AM

i think he has the right idea

Venatici
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Venatici
April 7, 2008 10:18 AM

And the mountains of data coming out now which contradict his theory are just a vast right-wing conspiracy right? He seems to be just another crackpot with an agenda.

When will these alarmists start considering all the data instead of cherry picking what fits their models?

Andrew
Member
Andrew
April 7, 2008 10:26 AM

Well, it’s hard to argue with one very basic piece of data:

The average global temperature is rising from year to year.

Prove that “alarminst” fact wrong.

Timber
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Timber
April 7, 2008 10:32 AM

Just what we need are more know-it-all do gooders, the last “improvement” from this crowd was to mandate the conversion of corn into gasohol. The result is all the worst characteristics of all including the price of milk in my area has gone from $0.97 per gallon at the beginning of last year to $2.30 per gallon today. The goal seems to be to impoverish the USA because “we deserve it” because of past success. A pox on all their houses.

Waylander_348
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Waylander_348
April 7, 2008 10:44 AM

By claiming that the only scientist supporting the argument against global warming, legitimate scientific debate is being censored. Humans add 2 percent of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Some global warming models doubled the amount of carbon dioxide. Oil companies have the right and the obligation to defend themselves where they are not wrong. We are in a warming period after coming out of the Little Ice Age. I have looked at both sides. Let’s not use this for more taxes. No. I do not work for the oil companies. Double check the facts on both sides for yourself.

Tammy Plotner
Member
April 7, 2008 10:56 AM
This is a an excellent article, Nancy. I watched a program last night how just a few tiny degrees in our temperature could warm the oceans just enough to cause huge releases of methane (undersea ice deposits) into our atmosphere. It’s a Venus scenario that was extremely thought provoking. It’s a program I wish all the folks had an opportunity to see… I think it might have opened their minds. I realize my own comments are going to invite harsh judgement, just as trying to promote Earth Hour did. If only we could channel all that energy into both promoting awareness and looking for a solution! You’ve done an excellent job reporting. Don’t let it discourage you from… Read more »
Timber
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Timber
April 7, 2008 11:06 AM

Tammy, it appears the only ones that are supposed to open their minds are those that are skeptical of the “facts” that are being freely tossed out by the doomsday advocates, maybe it’s time that works both ways

Cynthia
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Cynthia
April 7, 2008 11:13 AM

Actually China has or is about to exceed the US in levels of CO2 emissions. Hanson should be talking to the Communists over there. They are always so very amenable to dialogue and discussion.

Eric
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Eric
April 7, 2008 11:19 AM
How about we just stop being ignorant and realize that changes need to be made. Even if you don’t believe that burning fossil fuels is contributing to global warming, you may want to trade in that monster truck of an SUV that you use for your daily commute for a more economical alternative. Oil production is sure to slow significantly this century if models work out the way they are being seen. Whether the seas rise or oil runs out or both, something needs to be done. I love my 30mpg and all I had to do was trade in a large 18 mpg pickup truck to get a 4 door midsize to get it.
Watchful Stone Guardian
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Watchful Stone Guardian
April 7, 2008 11:31 AM

Let’s see. CO2 and methane have both been clearly demonstrated as gases that trap solar radiation in the atmosphere. In the past greater amounts of CO2 and methane have warmed the planet. Humans are adding CO2 and methane to the atmosphere more quickly than the natural carbon cycle can absorb. So, even if this is a “natural warming period” then our actions by adding CO2 and methane to the atmosphere is going to ADD to the warming. So many natural systems are buffered but all buffered systems do have a saturation point.

I would hate our “2% of carbon dioxide” (if that number is valid) to be the 2% that pushes us past a buffering point.

Andy C
Guest
Andy C
April 7, 2008 11:39 AM
@Waylander_348 > Humans add 2 percent of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Wrong. Do not confuse the total amount of CO2 emissions from all sources with the amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere, they are not the same thing. Whilst it is true that human activities contribute about 2% to all CO2 sources, what you are overlooking is that the other 98% is offset by natural carbon sinks, resulting in no increase in levels of ATMOSPHERIC CO2 from natural sources (a slight simplification, but fundamentally accurate). The human emissions are only partially offset by natural sinks (mostly the ocean), but the rest is added to the atmosphere. We can tell that the increase in atmospheric CO2… Read more »
Andy C
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Andy C
April 7, 2008 11:59 AM

@Timber

> Just what we need are more know-it-all do gooders

And what do you know about climate science Timber?

James Hansen is a leading expert on climate, his expertise includes radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres, development of global climate models, and analysis of climate change.

He’s been the director of GISS for almost 30 years, with dozens of published research papers, and a long list of awards.

I don’t like to use arguments from authority, but is it really that unreasonable to think that individuals with expertise on a subject might be worth listening to when they talk about that subject? (Particularly when the data supports their statements).

Timber
Guest
Timber
April 7, 2008 12:07 PM

Andy C.

What I am aware of is that there are other “leading experts on climate” that do not agree with a doomsday scenario

alfonso
Guest
alfonso
April 7, 2008 12:16 PM

so then the best thing to do is nothing?
milk is more expensive now, it must be the fault of the dogooders.
Oh and by the way Timber Prez Bush is not a “leading expert on climate”

Andy C
Guest
Andy C
April 7, 2008 12:16 PM

Timber,

Yet the overwhelming majority would (broadly) agree with Hansen. The scientific consensus on this issue is clear, and the evidence very clearly supports this consensus. The trend in mean global temperature is up, CO2 is the dominant factor, and humans are responsible for the increase in CO2. Hansen isn’t saying we’re all going to die next year, he’s saying that if we don’t take action, we will be causing major long-term problems for ourselves.

Venatici
Guest
Venatici
April 7, 2008 12:26 PM
The problem is we have all these people, who firmly believe what they are preaching, calling themselves “experts”. There are no “experts” that know the causes of climate change. That is because we are only just starting to investigate the phenomenon. If man-made global warming was a fact there would be no disputing it. But this is not the case. In fact a growing populace is beginning to question and outright rebuff the claimed causes. The alarmist following is rapidly loosing its momentum. Climate change alarmists are borderline fanatics about what they believe. So much so they have repressed any and all criticism of their work. This is a definite sign that something is not right. Now we… Read more »
Timber
Guest
Timber
April 7, 2008 12:32 PM

Andy C

The phrase “the overwhelming majority (of experts) would agree” has been used before in other contexts and has been shown to be far from accurate

Ripley1
Guest
Ripley1
April 7, 2008 12:38 PM

Ultimately it really will not matter what is responsible for causing our final demise. The fact is that we – all of us, the predominant lifeform on this planet, are over-growing, like a bacteria in a petrie dish, consuming all the nutrients, oxygen and water available. Someday we will drown suffocate in our own waste and by-products. At that time none of the whys or wherefors will matter. Humans cannot be entrusted with the care of such a beautiful and fragile thing as the planet Earth

David R.
Member
David R.
April 7, 2008 12:40 PM
For Tammy Plotner: For the record, I absolutely love Universetoday. I read this page more than the news. I also support new articles featuring human activity and its effects on the environment. I am also a fan of science, and I wish we could have the same open mind when analyzing other data that may also be contributing to the warming effect. Humans need to take responsibility for their actions, but part of that responsibility includes evaluating all the science and understanding how all the variables interact. I think there is much legitimate science that supports the conclusion that humans are contributing to an altered environment. But I keep asking questions that include looking at the geological record,… Read more »
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