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Global warming is a here-and-now reality, not just some scary theory or prediction

THIS OP-ED COLUMN in The New York Times by James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is downright chilling (if I might use that term):

The global-warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change.

We have known since the 1800s that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere. The right amount keeps the climate conducive to human life. But add too much, as we are doing now, and temperatures will inevitably rise too high. This is not the result of natural variability, as some argue. The earth is currently in the part of its long-term orbit cycle where temperatures would normally be cooling. But they are rising — and it’s because we are forcing them higher with fossil fuel emissions.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 p.p.m. over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon — 240 gigatons — to add 120 p.p.m. Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.

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6 Comments

  1. bejer50

    Pat- you know that global warming deniers are only interested in one thing:

    MONEY.

  2. Arcaster

    And those that believe in global warming have no interest in money?

    Here are the questions that need to be answered.

    (1) – How much damage will the warming cause?
    (2) – How much will it cost (not just money, bejer50) to prevent the damage?
    (3) – Will it be worth the costs?

    If the answer to (1) is not a whole lot and the answer to (2) is revert to a pre-Industrial Revolution society, I don’t see the answer to (3) being “yes”, which would make this whole “debate” moot.

  3. bejer50: I have to disagree with you. I think there’s a deep cultural bias among some global-warming deniers. It’s anti-science and anti-intellectual.

    It’s more than coincidence that there’s a significant overlap among people who disbelieve global warming and those who disbelieve evolution. These folks, especially the deeply religious ones, fundamentally distrust scientific reasoning.

    They remind me of what Martin Luther said: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word…Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason…Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.”

  4. mememine69

    You wouldn’t be shooting your mouth off like this still if there were real consequences for you issuing CO2 death threats to my kids. “a threat to the planet” -Earth Hour.
    Climate change wasn’t kids planting trees, it was a 26 year old CO2 death threat to billions of children but you climate cowards would never call it; THE END OF THE WORLD.
    More alienating of the voter with climate change warnings will keep progressivism out of power for decades. You CAN’T condemn the voter’s children to a CO2 hell anymore and still expect to get votes. Climate change is a vote for small C conservatives and conservatives know it. “a threat to the planet” –Earth Hour
    Even Occupy does not support climate change; (bankster carbon markets)

  5. mememine69

    “deniers are only interested in one thing: MONEY.”
    As in taxing the air with bank funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by political generals? That money?
    Get up to speed because even occupy has dropped the CO2 exaggeraton and more fear mongering of the CO2 mistake will keep us out of power forever.
    Don’t fear monger the voter’s children to the greenhouse gas ovens and expect to get votes still.
    Climate change was our Iraq War. We have moved on.

  6. AlaskaHound

    The data to date show what it shows, but the skinny portion of the earth’s history lies in the inter-glacial periods, such as the one we’re in now.
    It seems important to note that climatology is in an infant state along with the data collected so far. History did not begin in 1979 (Satellite era) and the scientists that endeavor to understand our complex planetary systems certainly have much more to learn.
    Some primary considerations are:
    What conditions must be present and what stimulus or stimuli are needed to force the transitions from glacial to inter-glacial & visa-versa?
    Man doesn not have the answers and when we do, there will be no debating AGW or CAGW.
    Of course the primary topic/discussion does not come up in the media, which is:
    What bands within Co2 are open and what are their saturation levels (meaning how much does the extremely rare gas contribute to tropospheric warming) and what are the tropospheric feednacks in play and what is their magnitude and sign?
    Beyond that, the magnetospheric conditions, solar influence over time and the earth’s position play parts, but to what extent?
    Please look at the avaialble data updated frequently through the nsidc, NOAA and the many earth science organizations around the world before quoting anyone!

    Cheers.

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