November 12, 2017, 8:53 am
The world must sharply draw down greenhouse gas emissions and suck billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air if today’s youth are to be spared climate cataclysm, a top scientist has warned.
“This reality is being ignored by governments around the world,” said James
Hansen, who famously, announced to the US Congress 30 years ago that global-warming was underway.
“To say that we are ‘moving in the right direction’ just isn’t good enough anymore,” Hansen said in an interview.
Head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies until 2013, Hansen and his 18-year-old granddaughter—who is suing the US government for contributing to the problem—delivered that message this week at UN climate negotiations in Bonn.
Thousands of diplomats at the 12-day, 196-nation talks are haggling over the fine print of a “user’s manual” for a treaty that will go into effect in
Inked in the French capital in 2015, the Paris Agreement calls for capping global-warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
With the planet out of kilter after only one degree of warming—enough to amplify deadly heatwaves, superstorms and droughts—the treaty also vows to explore the feasibility of holding the line at 1.5 C.
“That is a good impulse, because if we go to 2 C, it is guaranteed that we will lose our shorelines and coastal cities,” said Hansen.
“The only question is how fast.”
Earth’s surface temperature, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and sea levels have all changed in lock-step over hundreds of millions of years, he pointed out. In 2016, atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide—the main greenhouse gas—tipped over 403 parts per million (ppm), 40 percent above the pre-industrial average and the highest level in at least 800,000 years, the UN’s weather agency reported this week.