The cover story for this week’s “NYRB”:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19131 comes with an odd preface: author Jim Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (and sometime darling of the New York press, as he’s the city’s best known climatologist), is expressing his “personal views under the protection of the First Amendment.” This needs explaining only because the Bush administration has appointed -state censors- media minders for federal officials who “dare tell the truth”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/10/AR2006021001766.html about global warming.
Much to the minders’ chagrin, Hansen clearly contrasts the “Do Something” vs. “Do Nothing” scenarios. “Do Nothing” results in several big feedback loops spiraling out of control: _in my lifetime_, either the climate will warm slightly and remain stable, or a runaway greenhouse effect causing total collapse of the ice sheets and complete thawing of the permafrost could happen, and we have but a few scant years to seal our fate. Time’s a-wasting.
bq. [F]urther global warming exceeding two degrees Fahrenheit will be dangerous… [that] limit will be exceeded unless a change in direction can begin during the current decade. Unless this fact is widely communicated, and decision-makers are responsive, it will soon be impossible to avoid climate change with far-ranging undersirable consequences. We have reached a critical tipping point…
bq. [W]e have at most ten years — not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions. Our previous decade of inaction has made the task more difficult, since emissions in the developing world are accelerating… [I]f we stay on the business-as-usual course, disastrous effects are no further from us than we are from the Elvis era.
“It’s true that we’ve had higher CO2 levels before. But, then, of course, we also had dinosaurs.” — an unnamed NOAA scientist quoted by “Elizabeth Kolbert”:http://www.newyorker.com/online/content/articles/050425on_onlineonly01