“It would be immoral to leave these young people with a climate system spiraling out of control.”

-James Hansen, February 29, 2012 TED Talk

NASA climate scientist James Hansen gave a talk at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA on February 29th where he laid out the case for taking urgent action to reduce greenhouse emissions.  He also presents solutions, which include ending fossil fuel subsidies and putting a simple, honest price on carbon.  He proposes a “Fee and Dividend” approach where an increasing fee on CO2 is paid by fossil fuel companies and 100% of the proceeds are distributed to residents.  Besides lowering carbon emissions, this will also stimulate innovation and create millions of jobs.

Key highlights from his “must see” speech include:

  • In 1981 Hansen and some colleagues published a 1981 paper in Science Magazine  that said the 21st century would see shifting climate zones, creation of drought prone regions in North America and Asia, erosion of ice sheets, rising sea levels, and opening of the fabled Northwest passage.  All of these impacts have since either happened or are now well underway.
  • The current imbalance of the earth’s energy is 0.6 watts/square meter (which does not include the energy already used to cause the current warming of 0.8°C) was equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day, 365 days per year.
  • If we do not stop the warming, we should expect sea levels to rise this century by 1 to 5 meters (3 to 18 feet), extinction of 20 to 50% of species, and massive droughts later this century.
  • The recent Texas heat wave, Moscow’s heat wave the year before, and the 2003 heat wave in Europe we “exceptional” events that now occur 25 to 50 times more often than just 50 years ago.  Therefore, he concluded, we can say with high confidence that these heat waves were “caused” by global warming.
  • If we wait 10 years to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we will need to reduce them at a rate of 15%/year to stabilize the climate.  This, he said, would be “difficult and expensive — perhaps impossible.”

Dr. Hansen referred to his grandchildren and said “It would be immoral to leave these young people with a climate system spiraling out of control.”   Climate change is a key driver behind our work at Eco-Justice Collaborative.  Please take the time to watch this video, pass it along, and join our journey to work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy.


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