Feeds

Global-warming scientist: It's worse than I thought

Only Peak Oil can prevent 'guaranteed disaster'

The Power of One Infographic

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. ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Sit back down, Julian Assange™, you're not going anywhere just yet
Swedish court refuses to withdraw arrest warrant
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
British cops cuff 660 suspected paedophiles
Arrests people allegedly accessing child abuse images online
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.