Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near on Global Warming
Tomorrow I will testify to Congress about global warming, 20 years after my 23 June 1988 testimony, which alerted the public that global warming was underway. There are striking similarities between then and now, but one big difference.
Again a wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community and what is known by policymakers and the public. Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic. Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent.
The difference is that now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next President and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation.
Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.
CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
James E. Hansen (born March 29, 1941 in Denison, Iowa) heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Earth Sciences Division. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, and also serves as Al Gore's science advisor. Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology and his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue. He is also noted for publishing "an alternative scenario" for global warming which states that in the past few decades the warming effect produced by increased CO2 has been largely offset by the cooling effect of aerosols also produced in burning fossil fuels, and that most of the net warming so far is due to trace greenhouse gases other than CO2. He has been a critic of both the Clinton and current Bush Administration's stances on climate change.