James Hansen

It is probably not exaggerated to say that Dr. James Hansen is one of the best known  climate scientists in the U.S. He is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and adjunct professor at Columbia University Earth Institute.

He has been warning us since many years about the catastrophic events caused by global climate change that will happen if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions in time. His influential papers and commentaries, letters (for example a letter to the UK prime minister), and newspaper editorials can be found at his webpage of Columbia university.

Dr. Hansen kindly gave us the permission to reproduce and translate his work on the CO2-blogger (CleanEnergy Project).

An excerpt of his letter to the UK Prime minister (bold by MW):

Global climate is near critical tipping points that could lead to loss of all summer sea ice in the Arctic with detrimental effects on wildlife, initiation of ice sheet disintegration in West Antarctica and Greenland with progressive, unstoppable global sea level rise, shifting of climatic zones with extermination of many animal and plant species, reduction of freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people, and a more intense hydrologic cycle with stronger droughts and forest fires, but also heavier rains and floods, and stronger storms driven by latent heat, including tropical storms, tornados and thunderstorms.

Feasible actions now could still point the world onto a course that minimizes climate change. Coal clearly emerges as central to the climate problem from the facts summarized in the attached document. Coal caused fully half of the fossil fuel increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air today, and on the long run coal has the potential to be an even greater source of CO2. Due to the dominant role of coal, solution to global warming must include phase-out of coal except for uses where the CO2 is captured and sequestered. Failing that, we cannot avoid large climate change, because a substantial fraction of the emitted CO2 will stay in the air more than 1000 year. ..

Great Britain, the United States, and Germany have contributed most to fossil fuel CO2 in the air today, on a per capita basis. This is not an attempt to cast blame. It only recognizes the reality of the early industrial development in these countries, and points to a responsibility to lead in finding a solution to global warming. ..

If Great Britain and Germany halted construction of coal-fired power plants that do not capture and sequester the CO2, it could be a tipping point for the world. There is still time to find that tipping point, but just barely. I hope that you will give these considerations your attention in setting your national policies. You have the potential to influence the future of the planet…“

Maiken Winter

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