Friday, June 13, 2008
James Hansen’s climate crisis message
Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, gave a landmark speech in Lexington on Sunday, June 1, summarizing the scientific basis of the climate crisis.
The talk, sponsored by the Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition (LexGWAC), was introduced by Mark Bowen, author of the new book, Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming.
“It’s time to stop waffling … and say that the greenhouse effect is here and is affecting our climate now.” These words of Dr. Hansen – spoken in 1988 – turned global warming into an important international issue. Since then, the scientific evidence of human induced climate change has been piling up, with each decade being hotter than the previous. Last year, the polar ice cap melted at a record rate, guaranteeing that it will soon disappear altogether. According to Hansen, the resulting dark ocean will absorb even more heat, leading to a dangerous positive feedback cycle. Also, he states that sea level will inevitably rise at least another one meter this century.
The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is now 385 parts per million (ppm) and rising at the rate of over 2 ppm per year. In a recent scientific study, Dr. Hansen emphatically states that if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed, CO2 will need to be reduced to at most 350 ppm. Dr. Hansen says this is “barely possible” if we start now – not in a few years – by stopping the production of all new coal power plants (“there is no clean coal today”), promoting alternative energy sources, encouraging energy efficiency and practicing reforestation.
Hansen says that the government must put a price on carbon emissions by a revenue-neutral tax based on amount of energy usage -- the money collected would be distributed equally to all U.S. citizens. Therefore, consumers who spend less than the average on energy would come out ahead. This plan would provide incentives for energy conservation while encouraging alternative energy investors and inventors.
Dr. Hansen, in a rare switch from science to politics, states that we must work at the grass-roots level to elect climate-aware politicians who will pass these tough laws.
Dr. Hansen is hopeful that we can “avoid destroying creation” by accepting the challenge of the climate crisis and giving ourselves a cleaner planet, good jobs, energy independence, and reduced species extinctions. “We have to figure out how to live without fossil fuels someday … Why not now?” For more information, see www.350.org and www.gwenet.org. ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito