News

NASA scientist cites 'global-warming emergency'

NASA physicist says public awareness lags about the 'hundreds of millions' of people worldwide will sufffer from lack of water, rising seas

Time is running out to prevent catastrophic consequences from global warming, a leading climate scientist warned a packed audience Thursday at Stanford University.

Physicist James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said hundreds of millions of people will lose fresh water sources and hundreds of millions of others will be displaced by rising sea levels if fossil fuel emissions remain on their current course.

"We've reached a point where we have a crisis, an emergency, but people don't know that," Hansen told a packed Stanford audience Thursday night.

"There's a big gap between what's understood about global warming by the scientific community and what is known by the public and policymakers."

Hansen, who first warned about climate change in testimony to Congress in the late 198s, said a path out of the crisis is, "barely, still possible."

Introduced as an "iconic leader" in the science of climate change by biology professor Stephen Schneider, he spoke in a free public lecture sponsored by Stanford's Center for Ethics in Society in a series called "The Ethics of Food and the Environment."

China has surpassed the United States as the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Hansen said. However because of the long lifetime of the compound, the U.S. is over three times more responsible than any other country for the carbon dioxide now in the atmosphere, and will remain so for decades to come.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is already at 385 parts per million, well over the 350 parts per million, or less, that is considered "safe," Hansen said. And more warming is already in the pipeline because of inertia in the climate system.

"To preserve creation, the planet on which civilization developed, we must draw down carbon dioxide to less than 350 parts per million," he said.

Hansen advocates a "carbon tax with a 100 percent dividend," with funds returned to households based on how much they reduce their carbon footprints.

Fossil fuels should be taxed at their source—the wellhead or port of entry—to create incentives for the most efficient behavior. For example, he said, "we import food from New Zealand because there's no tax on aviation fuel, even though it makes no sense from a planetary standpoint.

"If you had a 100 percent dividend, there would be a big incentive to reduce carbon emissions and a motivation to develop technologies that reduce carbon emissions. The person who does better than average in reducing their carbon footprint will actually make money."

Aside from the carbon tax and strict efficiency standards for vehicles, construction and appliances, he called for development of renewable energy and an improved electric grid to get the energy to where it's needed.

He also advocated possible use of the next generation of nuclear power, which creates smaller and shorter-lived volumes of waste. "Most environmentalists are beginning to realize that they probably need to soften their attitude toward nuclear power if they're going to solve the greenhouse problem."

The single most important thing to do immediately, he said, is to impose a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. "Because coal is available and relatively cheap, China and India have relied mainly on that," he said. "They're getting a big public reaction to local air pollution. There have been a lot of riots there, which the government tries to keep quiet."

Flashing photos of his grandchildren, Hansen said there's a basic conflict between fossil fuel special interests and the interests of young people, nature and animals.

"Fossil fuel interests have influence in capitals worldwide; young people and nature don't have much voice. Animals don't vote and don't talk. It's a challenge."

He said he is hopeful that young people involved in the recent election will be aggressive in pushing for government policies to address global warming. He said he is also encouraged that seven of the 12 members of Congress identified as the "Dirty Dozen" by the League of Conservation Voters were voted out of office this month.

The next lecture in Stanford's Ethics of Food and the Environment series is by Frank Rijsberman, director of water and climate adaptation issues for Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google. Free and open to the public, it will be Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in Stanford's Annenberg Auditorium.

(Writer Chris Kenrick, a former editor at the Weekly, can be e-mailed at christina_kenrick@yahoo.com.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rwolf
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2008 at 6:12 am

Prof Nate Lewis from Caltech gave a fascinating "big picture" talk on the world's energy needs back in 2005, and how to meet them without carbon fuels.

My favorite line "I won't talk much about the economics of this other than to say it is easy to show, on a net present value basis, that the earth just isn't worth saving." (I'm left with the strong impression that he'd rather save the planet anyway, and jetison the economists... :)

A print version of the talk is at Web Link

Streaming video can be found at Web Link

Since this is a big picture talk, he doesn't worry about the economics or opportunity costs of the various alternatives. Just how much they produce and if they scale.

For example, hydroelectric won't do it because even if we don't care about environmental impact, there just aren't enough good dam sites. Ditto for wind and wave power. Yes, they'll help, but only a few percent. Ethanol would compete with food production.

The obvious conclusion is direct solar conversion. Think big. Visualize covering nevada with solar collectors.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2008 at 8:36 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Did Paul Ehrlich introduce Hansen?
Someone ask Hansen to accept my challenge - using the "Program" Hansen, Gore and Moore use to "predict" warming, change each input to reflect the changes Hansen et al prescribe and demonstrate with the unedited output from that program that the change will make any significant difference. Elmer Gantry was a piker.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2008 at 10:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 23, 2008 at 10:23 am

Don't worry Walter, the dire predictions of global warming won't happen in your lifetime.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by AlexJ
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Some changes are already happening faster than projected (particularly in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions subject to polar amplification), perhaps suggesting that feedbacks are underestimated. There's always some level of uncertainty in science, but that's not really reassuring given that it won't necessarily turn out in our favor. If it's possible to put together a FULL PORTFOLIO of energy technologies (photovoltaic, baseload solar thermal, wind, geothermal, wave, next-gen nuclear if necessary & cost-competitive), and combine it with efforts to maximize efficiency, why not try rather than gamble with a potentially rich future?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gail Zawacki
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Perhaps some of you are already familiar with what is happening to western forests due to climate change - the invasion of the pine bark beetle.

Web Link

I live on the east coast and virtually all of the trees are DYING because instead of frequent, steady rains and snowfall, we get infrequent heavy downpours, and of course, it's warmer.

Yet try to get people to recognize the symptoms of tree decline, even foresters, and they go into denial.

This spring or next, the trees just won't leaf out, the birds and other wildlife will lose their habitat and die, we will have forest fires, power outages, and huge expenses removing trees that threaten to topple onto homes and other buildings.

You think then people will notice that severe and irreversible effects of climate change are already happening, and at an accelerated rate beyond any predictions?

Maybe not. Maybe not until they shut down all the golf courses for lack of water.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Larry
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 23, 2008 at 1:36 pm

The scientific reasons why "global warming" is not a global crisis

Conclusion of Lord Monckton's address to the Cambridge Union Society
8 October 2007

AL GORE says, "I believe this is a moral issue."

So it is.

To "announce disasters" or "scary scenarios" or "over-represent factual presentations" in place of adherence to the scientific truth – that is a moral issue.

To let politicians insert data into official scientific documents; to alter those documents so as to contradict scientific findings; to manipulate decimal points so as to engender false headlines by exaggerating tenfold – those are moral issues.

To exaggerate by 2000% not only the atmospheric lifetime of a trace gas but also the effect of that gas on temperature; to reduce the magnitude of its predicted influence on temperature without reducing the predicted temperature itself – those are moral issues.

To claim scientific unanimity where none exists; to assert that catastrophe is likely when most scientists do not; to exalt theoretical computer models over real-world observations; to misstate the conclusions of scientific papers or the meaning of observed data; to overstate the likely future course of climatic phenomena by several orders of magnitude – those are moral issues.

To reverse the sequence of events in the early climate; to repeat that reversal in a propaganda book intended to infect the minds of children; to persist in false denial that past temperatures exceeded today's; to state that climate events that have not occurred have occurred; to ascribe these non-events as well as specific extreme-weather events unjustifiably to humankind – those are moral issues.

To propose solutions to the non-problem of climate change that would cost many times more than the problem itself, if there were one; to advocate measures to mitigate fancifully-imagined future climatic changes when adaptation would cost far less and achieve far more; to ignore the real problems of resource depletion, energy security, bad Third World government and fatal diseases that kill millions – those are moral issues.

To advance policies congenial to the narrow, short-term political or financial vested interest of some mere corporation or faction at the expense of the wider, long-term general interest of us all – those are moral issues.

Above all, to inflict upon the nations of the world a policy of ever-grimmer energy starvation calculated not merely to inconvenience the prosperous but to condemn the very poorest to remain imprisoned in poverty forever, and to die in their tens of millions for want of the light and heat and power which we have long been fortunate enough to take for granted – that is a moral issue.

Sir, this House is the House of youth. Here high ideals are shaped and sharpened. Here of all places, it is surely understood that in each of us, however far apart in mere distance or origin or wealth or achievement, there is the image and likeness of our Creator; that by this intimate communion with our Maker each of us, however poor, is of unique and precious value; that therefore there is only one race, the human race; that the suffering children of Africa, of Asia and of south America, imploring us with their hopeless, hopeful eyes, are our people. They cannot look to their own. They look to us. We must get the science right or we shall get the policy wrong. We have failed them and failed them before.

We must not fail them again!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bailey
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 23, 2008 at 1:47 pm

You have got to kidding. We have built in fire zones, supressed the naturally occuring fire and are surprised when the fires get out of control.

We build on hillsides with a history of slides and are surprised when homes are caught in slides.

It is easier to suggest some cosmic reason than our own human stupidity.

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

I am surprised that Dr. Hansen would have the nerve to show his face in public after being caught a second time falsifying data.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

There is an error in your article:


"There's a big gap between what's understood about global warming by the scientific community and what is known by the public and policymakers."

should read:

There's a big gap between what's understood about global warming by Hansen and what is fact.

Also

"Physicist James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said hundreds of millions of people will lose fresh water sources and hundreds of millions of others will be displaced by rising sea levels if fossil fuel emissions remain on their current course."

should read:

"Physicist James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said hundreds of millions of virtual people will lose virtual fresh water sources and hundreds of millions of virtual others will be displaced by virtual rising sea levels if fossil fuel emissions remain on their current course."

As Hanson only deals with his "Matrix" he's not interested in the real world.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I am suprised by the tone of the comments that are negative toward the issue of global warming. Whether the world is warming at a rate that might cause serious problems or not, It seems prudent to me to be prepared for some serious changes in the not too distant future. Our children deserve to be taught to behave in a manner that is respectful of their environment. They deserve to be taught to be skeptical of the material that is presented to them on a daily basis by those with self interest at stake. Those self interests are on both sides of the coin. Our children deserve to be told the truth as best as it can be told, so that they are prepared for their future with the best knowledge that we can give them. I get very tired of the negative attitudes of people that do not like what is presented. It behooves us to seek the clearest and most informed information on our environmental circumstances. Clear observations of what is happening around the globe seem to be pointing to some serious changes that we might want to pay attention to.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kiwi Farmer
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Importing quality, healthy food from New Zealand's unsubsidised and efficient farmers makes no sense? Hello, it's called consumer choice and global trade, moron. You want to talk about nasty special "interests"? Try selected agri-businesses in the US lavished with US$300 billion in subsidies, protections and other pork every year. From a financial standpoint, that makes no sense when running a concurrent massive budget deficit and sucking the capital out of anemic credit markets. The contempt Congress has for the US taxpayer and the "free market" is just staggering - corporate welfare and big business bailouts galore! At the end of the day, people are going to say "Screw you" to lofty pronouncements from ideologues like Hansen when it comes to putting food on the table.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by aussie ian
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Physicist James Hansen "flashing photos of his grandchildren"is a lovely human touch,reminiscent of the "for our children's children" approach of greenpeace and others who espouse the precautionary principle. Unfortunately,the precautionary principle was directly resposible for about 30 million preventable deaths from malaria in third world countries by banning DDt in 1972 ,just in case it "might" cause cancer [its less cancerogeninc than coffee], or "might"be responsible for the declining American Bald Eagle population. Of course, DDT has now been found innocent on both counts, but thats too late for those [black] children ,whose photos wont be flashed anywhere. And, by trying to make third world countries dependent on expensive energy[solar, wind etc] we are attacking those third world countries again,while feeling warm and fuzzy and earthfriendly at the same time! Hypocritical watermelons... So, for people like 'Mike',get on the net [try "climatedebatedaily"] and find out for yourself where the truth lies.If you're informed,then you can present your children with a balanced picture of the real world[not just simulations],and not leave their education up to well meaning but ill informed teachers- no offence to those of you who are well informed.Hansen has spent 20 years as the new messiah {and he gets paid for it], so he's got a barrow to push. cheers


 +   Like this comment
Posted by aussie ian
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Physicist James Hansen "flashing photos of his grandchildren"is a lovely human touch,reminiscent of the "for our children's children" approach of greenpeace and others who espouse the precautionary principle. Unfortunately,the precautionary principle was directly resposible for about 30 million preventable deaths from malaria in third world countries by banning DDt in 1972 ,just in case it "might" cause cancer [its less cancerogeninc than coffee], or "might"be responsible for the declining American Bald Eagle population. Of course, DDT has now been found innocent on both counts, but thats too late for those [black] children ,whose photos wont be flashed anywhere. And, by trying to make third world countries dependent on expensive energy[solar, wind etc] we are attacking those third world countries again,while feeling warm and fuzzy and earthfriendly at the same time! Hypocritical watermelons... So, for people like 'Mike',get on the net [try "climatedebatedaily"] and find out for yourself where the truth lies.If you're informed,then you can present your children with a balanced picture of the real world[not just simulations],and not leave their education up to well meaning but ill informed teachers- no offence to those of you who are well informed.Hansen has spent 20 years as the new messiah {and he gets paid for it], so he's got a barrow to push. cheers


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2008 at 2:24 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The precautionary principle should be applied cautiously.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by robertg222
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 3:54 am

Fortunately for the world mother nature doesn't believe Mr Hansen and his fudged numbers. The world is heading for a cooling period just like the GW skeptics have said. Hansen recently got caught using the higher September temperture numbers for October. He was also forced to correct the numbers that had 1998 as the warmest year in north America. That record now goes back to the 1930's. Further checking of the temperture numbers from Hansen/NASA show that he has applied a so called correction factor that has caused an upward temperature trend sense the 1970's.

Hansen is not a scientist he is part of the Al Gore propaganda machine and should not be trusted.

Even real scientist will come to the wrong conclusion if the raw data is wrong and Hansen has been supplying wrong data to the scientist of the world.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shoshin
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 24, 2008 at 7:10 am

The tone of prononcements of eco-romantic defenders of AGW is becoming increasingly histrionic. "We'll all be killed if we don't act now!!" What utter rubbish. The data are not even remotely supportive of that type of comment and furthermore, the much vaunted "scientific consensus" is withering as more and more people abandon the concept of AGW. I would view this abandonmnet as significant if "consensus building" were not irrelevant in science. The only place where a concensus is needed is in a political arena; so the disintegration of the consensus is really of political importance to the eco-romantics but of no importance to scientists.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jarred
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2008 at 7:59 am

This just in: Global Warming Causes More Sex!
Web Link

This short film has more scientific content in its first minute than the combined "career" output of Hansen + Ehrlich.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Having experienced a precipitous loss of mind-share as lefty sheep reluctantly exit his discredited death-cult, he sees no option but to make up new "data" that support his apocalyptic vision:
Web Link

Those who take Hansen seriously serve only to stamp "kick me" signs on what passes for their intellects.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dean
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 8:29 am

This article is short on facts and counts on people who have been repeating caught with misleading and false data.


National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.

Joseph Goebbels Diary entry for October 16, 1928.

Just insert Environmentalism and America and you get the point.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug Blair
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 11:59 am

For folks who are not sure what to think about climate change, I recommend a read of this site:
Web Link
For those who think we can and should keep burning fossil fuels, you may want to consider another issue called "peak oil." You can learn more about this issue at these sites:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
These are not issues of politics, but scientific fact. You can debate them from a political standpoint if you like, but remember: Nature bats last.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Some moderate warming might not be a bad thing, but we've pretty much locked that in already. Average atmospheric warming will probably almost double regardless of our actions at this point (due to the thermal inertia mentioned in the article). Then we have the question of amplifying feedbacks that apparently dominate on shorter, sub-millennial, timescales. Once things really get going, it'll likely take much longer to return to quasi-stable equilibrium than it took to disrupt it. Risking more rapid, lasting change is what's foolish in my view.

Regarding Lord Monckton's article on why global warming supposedly isn't much of a problem, see the following on his, shall we say, questionable material. It might be unwise to get one's science analysis from a politician (or a paper like the Telegraph for that matter).

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A scientist...
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 24, 2008 at 1:19 pm

This was an amazing piece of propaganda! Global warming scientists have been sounding the alarm for years. Forty years ago, they warned that our Earth would experience constant cataclysmic changes by the year 2000. Ummm...okay? These propagandists point to major hurricanes (like Katrina) as an example of environmental catastrophe, but then quiet down a bit the following year (one of the quietest hurricane seasons on record).

Yeah, you can listen to these radicals who claim that the sky is falling...or you can simply be a good steward of your house, car, family, neighborhood and nation by recycling. I find it interesting that these planet-worshippers are willing to TAX everything...and would welcome a tax equal to our entire income.

As a scientist, I am aware of some indications of global warming. But this type of propaganda borders on paranoia.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

For a real laugh, find a copy of the Urban Heat Island
Correction Factor. Bookkeepers have gone to jail for this kind of math. Peak Oil is a blast - like predicting we might run out of food some day, [as Ehrlich predicted] and so we should stop eating now. The intellectual halbstarks need to explain the melting Martian icecaps and the thawing of Charon.
Carl Sagan and his scientists lying for the public good has a lot to answer for.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 6:37 pm

How'd someone like Hansen get in in such a high level position??

We don't understand the Earth. It's that simple. We probably won't understand the Earth in the next 500 years! How can anyone claim they know why the Earth's temperatures have bumped up a fraction of a C??? Isn't fluctuations in the Earth's temperatures normal?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 7:12 pm

"A scientist": Were a significant percentage of scientists in a relevant field predicting "constant cataclysmic changes by the year 2000"? Where can I find evidence in the literature? To me, that claim sounds a bit like the 1970's "global cooling" myth (last paragraph in #7: Web Link ). And Katrina was used as an example of something destructive that warming can influence, per the relationship between temperature and intensity. That doesn't mean there aren't other factors (particularly short-term weather ones) influencing how many strong storms make landfall in a given year. The long-term climate influence is super-imposed over any natural variability. No serious scientist I know of suggests otherwise.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Tim, see the last sentence in paragraph 1, three posts above yours. Then see section 5: Web Link .


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Duveneck's Cooling
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Here's a great video that thoroughly debunks anthropogenic global warming:

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Not:

Web Link

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2008 at 11:14 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Alex - see my challenge and respond. Quantify and independently validate/calibrate the magic genie in a computer that Hansen worships. Engineers call your "science" extrapolatia ad absurdum.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2008 at 11:16 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

P.S. when you are accusing others of being in the pay of industry, prepare to trace the paychecks of Hansen et al.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2008 at 9:58 pm

A quick and belated reply, but there's plenty of material out there (including at the link I posted) on climate models and their assessment that makes it clear they're nothing to do with magic. It's also acknowledged that they aren't perfect (as with models in other scientific fields), particularly for high-resolution regional projections. And I don't see where I personally "accused" someone of being in the pay of industry. However, successfully reviewed and assessed material from serious researchers in relevant fields carries more weight with me than refuted yet regurgitated material disseminated by political think tanks bankrolled by big fossil. But maybe that's just me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:33 am

To "How did Hanson get such a high level position"?

How do you spell government work?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by laugh or cry..you choose
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 14, 2010 at 7:32 am

All I can do is laugh..or cry..depending on my mood

The Left is still trying to pass more regulations and taxes, ie gain ever more control over us, based on the non-science claim that CO2 is bad ( ahem..what do plants need to survive? What do we exhale? What is realeased when we, or any organic life form including plants, die and degrade?)

Watch out, Cap and Tax is reviving under other names, and our lovely Congress just snuck by, with McCain's help, of course!!...a back door power grab of the EPA to tax/regulate us on the basis of "CO2 is a poison" ..

Goal? To Centralize all power over us so that we can't even keep our ability to move to different States to escape oppression.


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