Climate scientist James Hansen spoke at the TED conference last week and laid out the risks of continuing on our business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions path. He also offered a policy solution that will greatly reduce CO2 emissions in the next decade. Here are some of his key points:
- "Extreme events" like the Texas heat wave, the Moscow heat wave the previous year, and the 2003 European heat wave are now happening 25 to 50 times (not percent) more often than just 50 years ago. Therefore, he said, we can say with high confidence that these events were caused by global warming.
- Dr. Hansen said that while most predictions are for 1 meter (3 feet) sea level rise this century, he believes it may be much more -- as much as 5 meters (18 feet) -- if we keep burning fossil fuels.
- On the current path, many areas of the world may experience droughts worse than the Dust Bowl in just the next few decades.
more below the video...
- By using 3000 "Argo" floats around the world's oceans, we can now determine the Earth's energy imbalance (how much more energy is going in than going out). The current imbalance is 0.6 watts per square meter. While it doesn't sound like much, it is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs being detonated every day. Furthermore, this imbalance was measured while the Sun's output was at a minimum which means that global warming effects overwhelm the variations in the Sun's output -- contrary to what deniers claim.
- To stop warming and stabilize the climate before it spirals out of our control, we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 6%/year starting next year. If we wait 10 years, the needed reductions will be 15%/year... an amount that he said would be "difficult and expensive -- perhaps impossible."
- Dr. Hansen proposed that we adopt a "Fee and Dividend" policy where fossil fuel companies pay an escalating fee on CO2 and 100% of the money collected -- every dime -- is paid out monthly to every legal resident on a per-capita basis. Because CO2 usage is related to wealth, most people would earn more in dividends than they pay in higher energy and products prices (and the ones who do pay more can afford it). The plan would spur innovation and create millions of jobs. While not mentioned in the talk, another component of the plan is to put a tariff on goods coming from countries that do not have a CO2 fee (this is allowed under the WTO). The tariff would protect our industries and would encourage other countries to adopt their own fee, since they would rather keep the money themselves than pay it to us.
- Dr. Hansen also spoke about his personal journey including censorship at NASA. He called on everyone to help him get the climate message out.
You can see my expanded write up about the talk at Climate Progress. But I urge you to watch the talk yourself and tell your friends and colleagues to watch it too.
If you're interested in learning more about climate change and Fee and Dividend (aka Clean Energy Dividend), visit my web site at ClimatePlace.org.