NASA Scientist Urges Action on Warming
Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:24 PM CST
Tom Gardner, AP Writer
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIF. � The effects of global warming are being felt
around the world and unless international efforts are launched within
the next 10 years species will disappear and the earth will be a
vastly less habitable planet by the end of the century, according to
NASA scientist James E. Hansen.
"Global warming is already starting, and there's going to be more of
it. I think there is still time to deal with global warming, but we
need to act soon. Humans now control global climate, for better or
worse," Hansen said Tuesday at an annual gathering of meteorologists.
Hansen, who came under fire from the White House after a December 2005
lecture in which he called for prompt reductions in greenhouse gas
emissions to slow global warming, delivered his keynote speech by
satellite at the 14th annual Operation Sierra Storm meeting at Mammoth
Mountain Ski Area. Global warming is the theme of the conference.
Hansen, who said he was not speaking for NASA, said that after the
warming of the past three decades, the world is within 1 degree
Celsius of its warmest period in the past 400,000 years. He predicted
that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the same rate, the
warming this century will approach 3 degrees Celsius, or about 5
He forecast that such a change would eliminate up to half the species
on earth and would melt polar ice caps. Subsequently rising ocean
levels would inundate Florida, most of Louisiana and much of the East
Coast, Hansen said.
"We don't know how long it would take for that to happen," he said.
He said warning signs are appearing in Greenland where ice is melting
twice as fast as it was five years ago. Ocean levels globally are
edging up about 3.5 millimeters a year.
Hansen said samples of the Antarctic ice cap spanning 400,000 years
show almost parallel changes in temperatures and greenhouse gasses �
primarily carbon dioxide and methane that until now were produced by
natural changes in the earth.
"The amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is now completely
under the control of humans," he said. "Another Ice Age cannot occur
unless humans become extinct."
Critical to the reduction of greenhouse gasses is international
agreement to curtail the use of fossil fuels � the primary source of
carbon dioxide and other pollutants, he said.
Hansen's call came one day after the chief of the United Nations'
effort against climate change said that despite widespread recognition
of the seriousness of global warming, a lack of leadership has created
a sense of helplessness.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on
Climate Change, told The Associated Press during a visit to Paris that
he will ask the new U.N. secretary-general to coordinate a worldwide
response and organize a conference of world leaders.
Such a meeting would be a first step toward a post-Kyoto agreement on
climate change, he said. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol requires 35
industrial nations to cut production of globe-warming greenhouse gases
by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, when the accord
In his speech, Hansen urged development of more efficient technologies
to sharply reduce carbon emissions, use of coal only in power plants
that scrub the emissions and a gradual increase in taxes on fossil
fuels to discourage use.
He touched only briefly on his dealings with the Bush administration,
saying that scientists have ethical responsibilities much the same as
doctors have to their patients.
The Commerce Department and NASA launched an investigation in November
into whether the administration tried to prevent government scientists
from speaking freely about climate change.
On the Web:
Operation Sierra Storm: http://www.operationsierrastorm.com
Dr. James E. Hansen: http://www.columbia.edu/(
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