Back in 1988, in the original GCM, Hansen summarized the situation going forward. The most important part of this figure is that grey band, and the implication that the world would soon enter that region,
A couple of days ago Jim Hansen laid it out for Australian Broadcasting in detail. You can listen to Fran Kelly's interview, or read it at Rabett Run. Eli reserves the right to inject a word or two here and there. Kelly (in italics) introduced Hansen who was at the 2015 Conference on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants and inquired why he refused to sign the Nuclear for Climate Declaration from the conference. Hansen pointed out it was not that Declaration he refused to sign
That's regarded by most as being the safe level of climate change and it's the same goal that will be on the table at Paris later this year at the UN Climate Talks. . . . The top US climate scientist James Hansen thinks says the goal is a nonsense and the world is on the wrong track thinking that two degrees of warming is safe. . . . James Hansen you have long been a supporter of nuclear power because it can significantly limit global warming but you are refusing to sign this Nuclear for Climate Declaration
No, someone has misinformed you. What I refused to sign the Vatican Declaration which had the 2 degree limit and the reason I do not sign that is that the 2 degrees is actually a prescription for disaster. That’s actually well understood by the scientific community.
We know that the prior interglacial period about 120,000 years ago – it’s called the Eemian in Europe –but it was less than 2 degrees C warmer than pre-industrial conditions and sea level was a least 6 to 8 metres higher, so it’s crazy to think that 2 degrees Celsius is safe limit.
The only thing you can argue is that, well, it might take a while for the sea level to rise that much, but we know that it would happen because once the fossil fuels are burned to reach that level they are not taken out of the systems for millennia, and it does not require millennia for the ice sheets to disintegrate.
If you say it would be crazy to shoot for two degrees but that is exactly what we are going to be shooting for in Paris at the global climate talks
That number (2 degrees) was chosen because it was convenient and thought that well that will give us a few decades so we can set targets for the middle of the century.
Actually what the science tells us is we have an emergency, this is actually a global crisis and the science for that is crystal clear. It’s not obvious to the public because the climate system responds slowly, the ocean is 4 kilometres deep, these ice sheets are 3 kilometres thick. They only respond over timescales of decades to centuries, but once the processes are started it’s going to be extremely difficult if not impossible to stop them.
So what the science actually tells us is that we should reduce emissions as fast as practical, bearing in mind the economic consequences, but in fact the actions that are necessary are not economically harmful. You just have to make the prices of fossil fuels honest
I just want to stay with reducing emissions as fast as practical. Is that why generally the global community including what is on the table at Paris is looking at two degrees because that is what is practical
That's what they would argue but they are talking about ways of doing it which are extremely ineffectual like the Kyoto protocol. This cap and trade with offsets, it is very ineffectual. What you actually need to do is make the price of fossil fuels honest instead of subsidizing them. It's been shown with economic studies that if you add a gradually rising fee to carbon collected from fossil fuel companies at the source, the domestic mine or the port of entry, and distribute that money 100% to the public, an equal amount to all legal residents it will actually spur the economy and increase the GNP and allow you to phase down emissions much more rapidly than with these screwy cap and trade with offset schemes
So you are saying that is much simpler kind of system than a cap and trade or what Australia had
A system that's designed for the public not for special interests. In the United States we had a bill introduced 3500 pages of give aways to every special interest that could lobby Congress and get its favorite thing in there. But that is not what you need. You need a simple honest system which would require one or two pages. But that's what politicians have not come up with yet
Eli: The laws and procedures for levying, collecting and distributing that tax would require much more than one or two pages. Much, much more. Hansen is either being naive or political here.
You are right that's what politicians have not come up with, but the scientists, the IPCC they are still talking about a 2 degree limit. The assessment report five that came out of the IPCC last year predicted sea levels will rise between 22 and 86 centimeters by the end of this century. You are actually saying it will rise much more than that and even more quickly
The paleoclimate evidence indicates the ice sheets are much more sensitive than the glaciologist, the modellers of ice sheets have indicated and furthermore we now have satellite data over the last 12 years that confirms that ice sheet disintegration is a non-linear process that should not have been surprising, and I have been saying that for 10 years, but now this satellite data confirms that.
The ice sheets are losing mass faster and faster with a doubling the of about 10 years. If that continues, we would get sea-level rises of several metres within 40 to 50 years.
So we really do not want to continue forcing the system at the rate we are doing now
So spell that out for us James before we move on, sea level rises of several meters in forty years, what would that look like in terms of our lives
The consequences are almost unthinkable. It would mean that all coastal cities would become dysfunctional, some parts of the cities would still be sticking above the water but they would not be habitable, so the economic implications are incalculable. We really cannot go down that path, this is an issue of intergenerational injustice. It’s a moral issue because the current generation is burning the fossil fuel and getting the benefits and creating a situation that for young people, our children and grandchildren and future generations is going to have enormous consequences.
James Hansen a report from the UK Grantham Institute this week makes it clear that based on current pledges and targets the world is not even close to delivering on a 2 degree goal which you say is not enough. Does that mean that we have to be looking elsewhere, seriously at some sort of negative emissions technology, drawing down atmospheric or ocean carbon what may that technology be. Is that answer nuclear. A emergency requires emergency actions.
I hate to sound like I am disagreeing with all the scientists but that's not true that we are necessarily beyond 2 degrees, we could actually come in below 2 degrees. We could actually come in well under 2 degrees. But it does require beginning to phase down fossil fuel emissions and that requires two things. The most fundamental is making the price of fossil fuel honest and that would encourage alternatives. But those alternatives are going to have to include technological advances
You mentioned that I have been supporting nuclear power for decades but that is not actually true. It is only in the last several years as I have begun to look at the energy situation and see what is actually happening. You hear all this stuff about renewables. Solar are becoming very cheap and they are taking over. Well, in fact, non-hydro renewables are providing only 3% of the energy even though they have been subsidized heavily for several decades. They are an important part of the solution but not an adequate part.
Eli: Those subsidies are beginning to pay off big time with huge decreases in the cost of solar and wind power as economies of scale and research advances begin to bite. Whether these will be enough to save the day without nuclear power is a debate between Hansen, Barry Brook and Joe Romm. Eli's POV is somewhat intermediate, that nuclear to carry the entire load requires new reactor designs, but today's reactors can contribute.
Nuclear power is the one thing that could help give us carbon free electricity, and if we get carbon free electricity as Sweden has right now, then the problem can be quickly solved.
The only thing that would be required in addition is liquid fuels but you can make non fossil fuel liquid fuels, but you can do that with energy from electricity. So if we have carbon free electricity the problem is solved.
And that's a doable thing. But it does require technology development as well as a rising fee on fossil fuels.
As you say you have been sounding this alarm for a long time now and many others have too. But for some years there the whole argument descended into a debate between the so called climate skeptics and the so called global warmists. Are we through that yet and what do you think the voice of the skeptics vs. the others
On the surface that appeared to be what was happening but in reality the contrarians were representing the conservative side who felt that liberals are going to use this as a method to raise taxes and increase control over their lives and that's exactly what they do not want and I don't blame them. But they were simply denying the science because they did not want those political consequences. It did not really have much to do with science and it still does not. and we really do need to get the conservatives to understand the situation because they need to be part of the solution and I think that they will be but it needs to happen pretty quickly.
Eli: Hansen underestimates the role that the fossil fuel company rat-fuckers have played.