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Response to a NASA Scientist

August 26, 2015

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Response to a NASA Scientist

August 26, 2015

 

James Hansen, a highly regarded climate scientist known to many and perhaps all of us, published a blog one week ago in the form of a legal declaration in support of his granddaughter, Sophie K., and "Future Generations."  Here is a link to the blog:

 

http://csas.ei.columbia.edu/2015/08/12/youth-versus-obama-dr-hansens-testimony-against-the-government/

 

It is several pages long and scientifically "geeky," but I expect you, like I, will find the declaration to be compelling reading.  Also, I find it to be consistent, essentially, with the CSGA Position Paper, which I hope we will approve at tomorrow's meeting.  The blog provides more detail but reaches several of the same conclusions as are found in our paper.  He and we agree that:

 

(1) Business-as-usual burning of fossil fuels has humanity on the edge of a climate catastrophe;

 

(2) The Obama Administration is inconsistent as between its rhetoric of concern about climate change and its actions in support of fossil fuels business-as-usual; 

 

(3) To take advantage of a closing window of opportunity for avoiding a climate catastrophe, we must rapidly stop burning fossil fuels;  and

 

(4) To quickly wean ourselves from carbon, we should impose a tax on it.

 

The differences that I saw between Hansen's testimony and our paper are these:

 

(1) He says the current level of the Earth's atmospheric CO2 (ACO2) is higher than it has been for 3 million years, while we say, "for more than 800,000 years";

 

(2) We are much more clear than he that drawing down ACO2 should be part of the policy strategy.  He writes about "rapid annual emissions reductions" as the policy needed, but if you read his Point #66 carefully, you will see that he includes "improved agriculture and forestry practices" in the preferred policy mix.  I wish he would be more clear about his policy preferences, but I realize that some advocates for ACO2 reductions avoid talking about drawing carbon out of the atmosphere because they are concerned that supporters of business-as-usual will use a CO2 draw down as a loophole for burning more fossil fuels.  In my mind, we should be talking about simultaneously ending CO2 emissions, drawing carbon from the atmosphere, and cooling the Earth's polar regions (to reduce the risk of a non-linear escalation of ice melt, particularly in the Antarctic Region).

 

(3) Although he references the rapidly escalating melting of ice at the poles, unlike in our paper, he does not suggest polar cooling.  Perhaps he preferred to avoid creating another loophole for supporters of fossil fuel burning.  Or, perhaps he is concerned about unintended consequences, but in any case, he doesn't say.

 

I'd be interested in seeing your reactions to the Hansen blog.

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