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Legendary Climate Scientist Says Last Chance to Stop Global Warming

  1. Jun 24, 2008 #1
    Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    WASHINGTON - Exactly 20 years after warning America about global warming, a top NASA scientist said the situation has gotten so bad that the world's only hope is drastic action.

    James Hansen told Congress on Monday that the world has long passed the "dangerous level" for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and needs to get back to 1988 levels. He said Earth's atmosphere can only stay this loaded with man-made carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises.

    "We're toast if we don't get on a very different path," Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences who is sometimes called the godfather of global warming science, told The Associated Press. "This is the last chance."

    Hansen brought global warming home to the public in June 1988 during a Washington heat wave, telling a Senate hearing that global warming was already here. To mark the anniversary, he testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming where he was called a prophet, and addressed a luncheon at the National Press Club where he was called a hero by former Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo., who headed the 1988 hearing.

    To cut emissions, Hansen said coal-fired power plants that don't capture carbon dioxide emissions shouldn't be used in the United States after 2025, and should be eliminated in the rest of the world by 2030. That carbon capture technology is still being developed and not yet cost efficient for power plants.

    Burning fossil fuels like coal is the chief cause of man-made greenhouse gases. Hansen said the Earth's atmosphere has got to get back to a level of 350 parts of carbon dioxide per million. Last month, it was 10 percent higher: 386.7 parts per million.

    Hansen said he'll testify on behalf of British protesters against new coal-fired power plants. Protesters have chained themselves to gates and equipment at sites of several proposed coal plants in England.

    "The thing that I think is most important is to block coal-fired power plants," Hansen told the luncheon. "I'm not yet at the point of chaining myself but we somehow have to draw attention to this."
    ...
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080623/ap_on_sc/sci_warming_scientist
     
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  3. Jun 24, 2008 #2

    Evo

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    I was watching a show on earth's climate the other night. They were basically saying that global warming of a couple of degrees would put the earth back to one of it's healthiest periods, the time when the earth was covered by lush tropical forests. The climate that human's have been enjoying for the past 10,000 years is what "we" like and know, not necessarily what is healthiest for the planet.

    They said that what would be devastating to the planet would be a global temperature drop of 1-2 degrees, this would cause the planet to be thrown into a premature ice age. This would be very damaging. Ultimately, we are heading into another ice age, we just hopefully won't see it happen soon.
     
  4. Jun 24, 2008 #3
    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    Yes, as I understood it (of course, I am not trained at all in the atmospheric sciences) the next ice age is years away. In the centuries.

    Hansen also said something I agreed with, and that is that corporations should be held accontable for their externalities. He even called for trials for some of the leaders of oil companies. And I agree with that logic. I think if our industries' producers are deliberately withholding better techniques in order to save profits they are committing a crime. If people have to suffer for actions they don't even participate much in, esp. some peoples in the third world, that is a crime. (A lot of people don't drive for instance, but of course suffer the consequences which can lead to death. The deaths attributed to environmental degredation is actually quite large.) So I think there should be tougher penalties for cutting corners and breaking the law in these industries.

    I'd take it further, though, and note that if alternative methods are being withheld, with no evidence showen that they will be "worse" for the economy, that is a crime as well.

    Hansen's comments actually remind me of something I heard Richard Stallman say, and that is that patents in third world countries that prevent generic drugs from getting is also a crime, esp. for diseases that can be cured for pennies on the dollar.

    If we are entering a "better period," then I think everybody should get their basic needs taken care of, such as food and water and basic health care. Even 75% getting this would be good, as right now the people who are suffering from the lack of basic needs is far greater than 25% of the world population.

    Anyway, I respect Hansen as a scientist and admire his courage. I have no problem with scientists "getting political," esp. if it relates to work they've spent decades studying.
     
  5. Jun 24, 2008 #4

    lisab

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    OK, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here.

    First, to put someone in jail, they have to break a law. I don't like the way oil companies are screwing us, but as far as I can tell the companies aren't breaking any laws by creating a legal product.

    Second, if you really believe that the leaders of oil companies should go to jail, why stop there? After all, technically, the product they make doesn't contribute to climate change -- burning it does. And we're the ones burning it - we're the ones creating the CO2.

    You state, "I think if our industries' producers are deliberately withholding better techniques in order to save profits they are committing a crime." But the public is delibertely not changing its behavior, out of convenience (e.g., I could ride my bike to work but it would take too long). Yet we can't start jailing people for driving cars.
     
  6. Jun 24, 2008 #5

    D H

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    I agree. This whole notion is ludicrous and dangerous. We can't start putting people to jail for breaking non-existent laws.

    Continuing the game of Devil's Advocate: Why does this guy still have a job? He is obviously in violation of the Hatch Act, and that is a real law, not a pretend one.
     
  7. Jun 24, 2008 #6

    Evo

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    He is definitely more about politics and what people want their idea of an "ideal world" to be. If one looks back on world climate you will see that when the planet was warmer, the earth was at it's lushest period of forestation and life forms.

    "Global Warming" is about how humans want things to be. The fear that climate won't always be our "ideal", that some species will die out and others will flourish, that coastlines will change. Well, it always has and it always will. Seriously, the world is not going to be destroyed with the predicted temperature increase, if it ever comes to pass, we know this because the earth has already experienced it and the planet flourished.

    Why can't we just say that we should curb pollution because it's a good idea and we need to find alternative energy sources because we are running out of fossil fuels?

    If you want to learn more about the earth's history, this is a good condensed page to read.

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html
     
  8. Jun 24, 2008 #7

    Evo

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    Absolutely. I've noticed that even though the price of gas has doubled over the last year, there are as many cars on the road as there has ever been. The majority of people aren't changing their habits.
     
  9. Jun 24, 2008 #8

    D H

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    Continuing with the Devil's Advocate game, because saying that doesn't conform with the environment movement's irrational beliefs that humans are the scourge of the planet. Wishing that humanity was gone is what conforms with these beliefs. Some of the more wacko elements of the environmental movement get downright rapturous (pun very much intended) on the subject. Exactly how well life would fare without humanity choking it down is the subject of
    • A best-selling book, "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman.
    • The TV documentary "Life After People" on the History Channel.
    • The TV documentary "Aftermath: Population Zero" on the National Geographic Channel.
    • Articles in Discovery, Scientific American, New Scientist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and on and on.

    Simply saying that global warming is bad for people, whether or not humans are the root cause, has a lot more credibility with me than saying it is bad for life. Those completely wrapped up in the green movement don't say that because they do not care about people. As Evo noted, global warming is not bad for life. Those nasty, 100% organic fossil fuels that the environmental movement so despises came from a time when the world was a lot warmer and life was much more prolific than it is now.

    If a river floods and kills a lot of people, we look for ways to stop that from happening in the future. It does not matter if the flooding is our fault or nature's. Similarly, assuming global warming is true, it will cause a lot more human damage and suffering than any puny little flood will, so perhaps we should do something to prevent it. It does not matter if the warming is our fault or nature's.
     
  10. Jun 24, 2008 #9
    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    It's official, NASA hse completely run out of funds and are now having to stoop to extortion to get whatever they can. They will never make it back to the moon much less continue the ISS for very long with this kind of propoganda to boost (or lower) their public image. What a waste.

    EDIT: They need to keep guys like this Hansen locked away in the basement.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2008
  11. Jun 24, 2008 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    Isn't the point what's best for humans and our way of life?

    Ask Katrina victims or the folks in Ohio what they think of GW-like events.
     
  12. Jun 24, 2008 #11

    Gokul43201

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    But that does not mean that getting back to the same temperature would again be a good thing. Even if all other conditions are identical, you have a very incomplete and misleading picture without looking at time derivatives of the temperature and thermal drivers.

    For instance, I am more comfortable at with my feet on the ground than when I'm weightless in the air. But if I had to choose between falling off a building, finding myself crashing into the sidewalk and just slipping off the edge of the roof, I think I'd definitely pick the latter. In other words, I am most comfortable at ground level, but only if my downward speed is very small, or my upward acceleration is large enough to save me from breaking my legs, or...

    Likewise, the earth may be most comfortable with roughly today's temperature, but that may also need other conditions/derivatives to be "good". For instance, from your link, the CO2 levels during the mid/late carboniferous period changed by less than 1ppm over a million years. The sharpest spike in CO2 levels was during the Cambrian, at a rate of about 200ppm every million years. Now look at our present rate of CO2 accumulation, which is over 1ppm/year or more than a 1,000,000ppm in a million years. There's just no comparison whatsoever!

    It's like comparing the difficulty in landing safely when you jump off a foot stool with the difficulty you might have if you jump out of a cruising airplane.
     
  13. Jun 24, 2008 #12
    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    I didn't say anything about jail. The word "jail" isn't even used in my post. Please read more carefully. I said they should be subjected to a trial. A tribunal can take place without the participant even knowing what's going on. Numerous war crimes tribunals were set up during the Vietnam war, for example.

    If you actually read the post I made, I specifically state that the laws against monopolies, pollution, and externalities be made tougher, and that they engaged in crimes against humanity.

    For something to be a "crime" doesn't necessarily mean it has to be illegal. By that ridiculous standard, the US overthrowing democratically elected governments in the third world to help protect our economic interests wouldn't be a "crime" in any meaningful US interpretation of the law.

    I would consider some of the worst crimes to have taken place in history to be ones that were entirely legal. You might disagree on whether it is a crime or not, but to imply that something isn't a crime just because it's not "illegal" is absolutely ludicrous. No one believes that.


    I said that people in the West should take more responsibility for their negative effects on the environment, in the same way smokers paid the price in the 1950s and 1960s, and they continue to pay in the forms of higher taxes on cigarettes and so on.

    Second, the pollution that comes from oil refineries is enormous, and the Clean Air Act requires state and local governments to meet various benchmarks for reducing pollution.

    The public isn't changing its behavior drastically because alternatives are deliberately made more expensive by oil company monopolies and the government the backs them to the tune of billions of dollars a year (more crimes in my opinion).

    People claim that's it's wrong to use the government to invest in new technologies, but they conveniently leave out the fact that the government spends more money overseas protecting the oil abroad than it's worth and billions of dollars protecting them at home (another crime), while they continue to sit on oil refineries at home.

    But your statement isn't even true. The public are changing their behavior somewhat, and they would continue to do so if encouraged by the government.
     
  14. Jun 24, 2008 #13
    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    And can you show me a scientific study, published in a scientific journal, that I can access (i.e., one that can easily be found in a search of journals for University students, such as EBSCOhost) that confirms all this?

    It has to be relevant, with credentials that are on par with Hansen's (i.e., I don't want an economists opinion, or something).

    I've read a few studies, and have heard the opinions of a lot of scientists. Their concerns are often as dire as Hansen's. Few note that the consequences won't be disasterous, but severe. None I've seen shows it will actually be good and lead to a greater time for humans.

    So, I'd be interested in seeing the study that helpfully explains how Global Warming is good for poor people.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2008
  15. Jun 24, 2008 #14

    Gokul43201

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    D H said that global warming is good for "life", not poor people. However, that assertion is also unsupported.
     
  16. Jun 24, 2008 #15
    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    What consequences would you suggest?
     
  17. Jun 24, 2008 #16
    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    For me, the important issue is biodiversity. The human species can survive in extreme climates of hot and cold. Increased weather severity and drought can kill people, but not cause human extinction. Many other species, on the other hand, live in very delicate ecosystems which can be easily disrupted by human activity including anthropogenic global warming. The argument that we are at a pivotal point in history for the biodiversity of the planet seems convincing.

    However, based on what I've read, I don't agree that C02 concentrations in the atmosphere are the most immediate concern. Deforestation and pollution seem like much larger problems. Sadly, this view seems missing from the popular news media.
     
  18. Jun 24, 2008 #17

    Gokul43201

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    The last major study I have read about in the context of biodiversity was C. D. Thomas et al, Nature 427, 145 (2004). I never got down to reading the paper itself because the last sentence of the abstract put me off.

    You can read the paper here: www.fishclimate.ca/pdf/Extinction_risk_from_climate_change_Nature_2004.pdf
     
  19. Jun 24, 2008 #18

    D H

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    You said
    You are advocating putting people on trial for committing a crime. Since you used the word trial, you must have meant the legal definition of crime. From http://www.id.uscourts.gov/terms-cd.htm: "Crime - An act in violation of the penal laws of a state or the United States. A positive or negative act in violation of penal law." The penalties from being convicted of a crime range from small penalties to time in jail to execution. We assumed you are not talking about slapping one of those evil oil executives with a $100 fine.

    Since you are advocating putting people on trial for committing a crime, and since crime as far as the courts are concerned is a violation of penal law, what law have these evil oil executives broken?

    I thought the left was enamored with the constitution -- things such as the right to face one's accuser, right to legal council, a trial of one's peers, and all that. I guess not.

    If you want to put people on trial for committing a crime that is the only definition of crime you can use. Most people on this forum, regardless of their political leanings, believe exactly that.
    Did you read the article Evo sited? This is common knowledge, that the Earth's climate has varied a lot. That nasty oil and coal that you hate formed when the Earth was a lot warmer than it is now, the atmosphere had a lot more CO2 than it does now, and life was much more prolific than it is now.
    That is a strawman argument, which is against the rules of this forum. Nobody here has said that.
     
  20. Jun 24, 2008 #19
    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    Which of the two main US presidential candidates (Obama or McCain) do you think will take more definitive action to curtail global warming?
     
  21. Jun 24, 2008 #20

    russ_watters

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    Re: Legendary Climate Scientist Says "Last Chance" to Stop Global Warming

    Well, yes, that's kinda the point: it depends on who you ask. I rather suspect a large fraction of "environmentalists" are just as concerned (if not more) about the health of the planet than the health of its citizens. There are lots of examples (endangered species act, for example), but here's the idea itself:
    http://www.earthfirst.org/about.htm

    Personally, the prospect of the rising sea level is a concern to me. It will affect a lot of people. But some have mentioned extinction events and a potential loss of biodiversity. These don't concern me much at all.
     
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