Monday, January 19, 2009

Hansen: Only Four Years for Obama to Deal with Climate Change

By Ben Trott

In an interview in Sunday's Observer newspaper, NASA scientist and leading climatologist James Hansen said there were only four years left in which to avert global disaster resulting from climate change: cities flooded, species extinct, spreading deserts and melted sea caps. Hansen, who has previously written to Obama on the issue of climate change, argued that,
'We cannot now afford to put off change any longer. We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.'
He expresses strong criticism of the cap-and-trade system, encouraged by Kyoto, which enables emissions trading. The article argues,
'Thus plans to include carbon trading schemes in talks about future climate agreements were a desperate error, he said. "It's just greenwash. I would rather the forthcoming Copenhagen climate talks fail than we agree to a bad deal," Hansen said.'
Climate activists are planning on mobilising for protests in Copenhagen around the summit. Many are skeptical that much positive will result from the negotiations. In a text distributed at the talks' preparatory meeting in Poznań last month, written by Tadzio Mueller of Turbulence and Alexis Passadakis from Germany's attac network, the pair argued,
'The chance that governments will come up with a ‘good deal’ in Copenhagen is slim to none. Our aim must therefore be to demand agreement on real solutions. Failing that: to forget Kyoto, and shut down Copenhagen!'
It seems they have, perhaps, found an ally.

The Observer article continues, explaining,
'Hansen's strident calls for action stem from his special view of our changing world. He and his staff monitor temperatures relayed to the institute - an anonymous brownstone near Columbia University - from thousands of sites around the world, including satellites and bases in Antarctica. These have revealed that our planet has gone through a 0.6C rise in temperature since 1970, with the 10 hottest years having occurred between 1997 and 2008: unambiguous evidence, he believes, that Earth is beginning to overheat dangerously.

'Last week, however, Hansen revealed his findings for 2008 which show, surprisingly, that last year was the coolest this century, although still hot by standards of the 20th century. The finding will doubtless be seized on by climate change deniers, for whom Hansen is a particular hate figure, and used as "evidence" that global warming is a hoax.

'However, deniers should show caution, Hansen insisted: most of the planet was exceptionally warm last year. Only a strong La Niña - a vast cooling of the Pacific that occurs every few years - brought down the average temperature. La Niña would not persist, he said. "Before the end of Obama's first term, we will be seeing new record temperatures. I can promise the president that."'

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