Top NASA official warns on climate change

James Hansen, a top NASA official famous for his speech twenty years ago on global warming strikes back. His first discourse rose awareness on climate change in the United States.

In his anniversary speech, he stated that large oil and coal companies would commit crimes against Humanity and Nature if they continued emitting important amounts of greenhouse gases.

To Mr. Hansen, we have to act now as “we’ve already reached the dangerous level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

According to the Dot Earth blog from the New York Times :

There were no climate-science bombshells from James E. Hansen on Monday on his trip to Capitol Hill at the invitation of some House Democrats, who wanted to commemorate his momentous global warming testimony 20 years earlier. On that front, he said everything he has been saying for years: unabated warming would erode the ice sheets, flood coastal cities and drive many species into extinction.

But there was a much discussed recommendation in both his oral presentation and a written statement he prepared beforehand: that the heads of oil and coal companies who knowingly delayed action on curbing greenhouse gas emissions were committing a crime.

“These CEO’s, these captains of industry,” he said in the briefing, “in my opinion, if they don’t change their tactics they’re guilty of crimes against humanity and nature.” He made the point more strongly in a written statement summarizing his talk (posted below).

(…) Committee staff explained that the main goal was to honor Dr. Hansen by hosting a briefing for him on the 20th anniversary of the 1988 hearing, even though the sleepy, muggy days of late June had many lawmakers on the road.

In his methodical, low-key Iowan way, Dr. Hansen ran through his climate slides as he has done innumerable times. The scene was a far cry from the tumult and ranks of television cameras 20 years earlier, when Dr. Hansen’s testimony generated evening news reports and front-page stories.

The link above will send you to the full speech by Mr. Hansen. A most interesting reading I strongly recommend you.

In another article on Dot Earth, big oil and coal companies’ reactions are presented.

The Agence France Press also quotes Mr. Hansen and provides more data :

(…) In a paper he (note : Mr. Hansen) was submitting to Science magazine on Monday, Hansen calls for phasing out all coal-fired plants by 2030, taxing their emissions until then, and banning the building of new plants unless they are designed to trap and segregate the carbon dioxide they emit.

The major obstacle to saving the planet from its inhabitants is not technology, insisted Hansen, named one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006 by Time magazine.

(…) “The industry is misleading the public and policy makers about the cause of climate change. And that is analogous to what the cigarette manufacturers did. They knew smoking caused cancer, but they hired scientists who said that was not the case.”

(…) Last year Hansen testified before the US Congress that “interference with communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career.”

Government public relations officials, he said, filter the facts in science reports to reduce “concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

While he recognizes that he has stepped outside the traditional role of scientists as researchers rather than as public policy advocates, he says he does so because “in this particular situation we’ve reached a crisis.”

For further details, please refer to this AP article : NASA warming scientist: ‘This is the last chance’

Thanks to my friend Etienne for sending me an e-mail on that matter last week.

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