Global-warming scientist: It's worse than I thought
Only Peak Oil can prevent 'guaranteed disaster'
A renowned global-warming scientist says the problem of global warming is much more serious than previously estimated. However, he also hints that there may be no need to fear catastrophic carbon-driven climate upheaval, as mankind will run out fossil fuels much sooner than presently estimated.
James Hansen, chief of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was one of the first to warn about global warming decades ago. Until relatively recently, he believed that a target of 450 parts per million atmospheric CO2 would be sufficient to stave off disaster. Now, however, he thinks that this figure should revised downward to 350ppm.
"If you leave us at 450ppm for long enough it will probably melt all the ice - that's a sea rise of 75 metres. What we have found is that the target we have all been aiming for is a disaster - a guaranteed disaster," Hansen told the Guardian over the weekend.
The new assessment is based on research carried out by Hansen and his colleagues in recent years using ocean-floor samples and satellite imagery. This reveals, according to his analysis, that comparatively low levels of atmospheric CO2 were enough to cause the glaciers to retreat in prehistoric times - and that today's polar ice may vanish much faster than anyone thinks.
Regarding solutions, Hansen himself has said "a 350ppm target is only achievable by phasing out coal use", at present one of humanity's main power sources. He believes the missing coal energy could be easily replaced by better-insulated buildings, more efficient transport, etc. (An abstract of Hansen's thoughts can be read here in pdf.)
That said, the EU, with the strictest carbon policy in the world, is only aiming for a 550ppm quota. No other major industrial bloc is even as close as this. A global cap at 350ppm would appear wildly unrealistic in diplomatic and political terms.
But Hansen offers some hope, telling the Guardian that fossil fuels will soon run out anyway, so forcing the human race to find alternative power sources. ®
I recently saw a documentary on the Apollo 13 rescue (not the movie); the fact that they were able to pull off something like that remains one of the great achievements of 20th century science. NASA may have had its bureaucratic screw-ups but it employs top talent in its science departments. It's not for nothing that "rocket scientist" is a synonym for someone able to do hard science.
It's plain ludicrous that people are asserting Hansen left out obvious things or is purely engaged in political spin. Read some of his papers at www.giss.nasa.gov and see for yourself. I am not a climate scientist and prefer to verify things myself; what I have been able to check out looks good. See for example http://opinion-nation.blogspot.com/2008/04/climate-science-predictive-power.html
Do you know how thick the ice is on Greenland? That's the largest island on the planet, excepting Antartica. And antartica, how thick do you think the ice is there?
That's a lot of feet.
Squoosh that over the sea area and that's still going to be lots of feet.
Hmmm. How much of that land is inhabitable? How much is used for farming? How much for resources thereon? How much for infrastructure (roads etc)?
How much of that is flat enough to make building houses affordably?
We're using up most of the land we can use. We can fragment but where are the millions of londoners going? Half way up Snowdon???