Top climate scientist to Congress: Act fast before time runs out
The director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, one of the world’s top experts on climate change, told a congressional briefing yesterday that delays by business and politicians have “used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb.”
Unless action is taken quickly, James Hansen said, “it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents the climate system from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dynamically out of humanity’s control.”
Hansen, who first testified to Congress on global warming 20 years ago, blamed U.S. inaction on a deliberate campaign of misinformation financed by the oil and coal industries.
“Solution of the climate problem requires that we move to carbon-free energy promptly.
“Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.
“CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”
Hansen testified that “the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million) and it may be less.” The earth has already past that point.
“Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. Stunning corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation.”
Read full text of Hansen’s testimony here. (PDF, 74 kb)