Feeds

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

Only Peak Oil can prevent 'guaranteed disaster'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bada-Bing! Mozilla flips Firefox to YAHOO! for search
Microsoft system will be the default for browser in US until 2020
NSA mass spying reform KILLED by US Senators
Democrats needed just TWO more votes to keep alive bill reining in some surveillance
Be real, Apple: In-app goodie grab games AREN'T FREE – EU
Cupertino stands down after Euro legal threats
'Cleantech' a dirty word for VCs? RUBBISH!
They just think the current schemes are terrible
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.