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James Hansen: Storms of My Grandchildren

ABC TV Lateline’s Tony Jones had an interview with NASA’s climatologist James Hansen

Hansen just published a book entitled “Storms of My Grandchildren, The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity”

http://www.stormsofmygrandchildren.com stormsofmygrandchildren

Here are some extracts from the Lateline interview:

Climate Scientist discusses Copenhagen summit

TONY JONES: Now you’re accusing governments of lying through their teeth even as they sign up to large emission reduction targets for Copenhagen. Why so pessimistic?

JAMES HANSEN: Well it’s very easy to show that they are either lying or kidding themselves because all you have to do is look at the geophysical data. You know, the governments all around the world now agree that we’re going to have to stabilise atmospheric composition, carbon dioxide in particular, at a relatively low level.

And if you look at how much carbon there is in oil, gas and coal, what you quickly realise is that oil and gas is already going to be enough to get us up to approximately the dangerous level. The only way we can solve the problem is by phasing out coal emissions and prohibiting unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and oil shale.

But in fact, if you look at what’s happening, the United States just signed an agreement with Canada to make a pipeline to carry oil from tar sands to the United States, and Australia is expanding its port facilities to export more coal…….

TONY JONES: You’ve also described the whole Copenhagen approach as fraudulent because of its, quote, “ineffectual cap and trade mechanism”. Now why do you say global emissions trading won’t work?

JAMES HANSEN: Well we can prove very easily that cap and trade with offsets is not going to work. We tried that with Kyoto and the global emissions actually accelerated, even the rate of growth increased after the Kyoto Protocol.

A few countries cut their emissions a bit but as long as the price of fossil fuels is the cheapest energy, then they’re going to be used by somebody. So this cap in trade and offsets, that’s, basically what this is, it’s like the indulgences of the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church would sell forgiveness for sins……

TONY JONES: Okay, well you’re talking about what you find from the examination of ice core data. Is there a comparable period in history, the history of the planet that is, where warming accelerates due to these feedback mechanisms, and do you get much more rapid sea level rises during that period?

JAMES HANSEN: Yeah, well, in the relatively recent paleoclimate, coming from the last ice age to the present interglacial period that we’ve been living in for 10,000 years, when that icesheet, the big icesheet on North America began to disintegrate, sea level went up five metres per century. That’s one meter every 20 years for several centuries. So once an icesheet begins to melt and begins to disintegrate, things can move very rapidly…..

hansen_lateline_interview_2009_12_07

TONY JONES: Okay, if I understand it correctly your argument is that climate change is not only about droughts, but that effect you’re talking about will cause much more frequent and much more severe storms; is that correct?

JAMES HANSEN: Yeah, the, both extremes of the hydrologic cycle must increase, become more intense as the planet becomes warmer. At the times and places where it’s dry, the increased heating of the surface makes it hotter and drier.

On the other hand, the oceans, the places where you have water, the increased heating evaporates more water, so the atmosphere holds more water vapour and at the times when you get rainfall you will get heavier rainfall and greater floods, so the extremes of the climate increase, the extremes of the hydrologic cycle.

Now as far as storms are concerned, the storms that are driven by latent heat – that means thunderstorms, tornados, tropical storms – the strongest ones will get stronger because there’s more fuel. The water vapour provides the fuel for those types of storms.

Not all of them will be stronger, but the strongest ones will be stronger than the strongest ones now. But in addition to that, and one thing I talk about in my book, Storms of my Grandchildren, I’m talking about the mid-latitude storms, the fact that as the icesheets on Greenland and Antarctica begin to melt more rapidly than they are now, they will discharge ice fast enough that it will cool the surface of the ocean, nearby ocean, in the North Atlantic and in the circum Antarctic Ocean.

That will cause the temperature gradient between low latitudes and high latitudes to increase, so the storms that are driven by horizontal temperature gradients will become stronger, and these can be very damaging storms, this is like the storms that hit the Netherlands and England in the 1950.

They can do enormous damage. So, yes, it’s true that all the storms that we can think of will become stronger as the climate becomes warmer.

TONY JONES: James Hansen, one final question: what’s your estimate; how long do we have before the planet reaches one of those tipping points that you’re talking about and global warming is irreversible? And if that happens, what are the consequences?

JAMES HANSEN: Well, you know, we are probably, we’re already into the dangerous level of carbon dioxide and it’s going to increase more. If we would phase out the coal emissions over the next 20 years, then CO2 would peak at something like 425ppm.

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2008/s2764523.htm

Phasing out of coal within 20 years….but the coal horizon for the Federal and Queensland State governments is 50 (in words fifty) years.

Nod for new CQ coal terminal

wiggins_island_coal_terminal_70mt_50yearhorizon

April 21, 2008

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has signed off on the environmental impact study for Wiggins Island Coal Terminal, an expansion of Gladstone port’s coal terminal.

Ms Bligh said the first $1.3 billion stage of the expansion would boost Gladstone’s coal exports by a third, or 25 million tonnes, and generate up to $1.8 billion annually.

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23574040-3102,00.html

..

http://www.sirfrt.com.au/Meetings/IMRt/Northeast/IMRT%20QNT%2006%20Sep%2007/060907%201320%20Mark%20Greenaway%20GLADSTONE%20CQPA%20EXPANSION.pdf

And in the Hunter valley……….

December 12, 2008

Mr Rudd said the Government would spend $1.2 billion on rail infrastructure, the largest single investment in rail in the history of the Commonwealth.

“For example, $580 million of today’s investment will be used to expand capacity and rail corridors to service the Hunter, the Hunter Valley Coal mines and of course their connection to the Port of Newcastle,” he said.

Mr Rudd said this investment would more than double the export capacity at Newcastle from 97 to 200 million tonnes of coal a year.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/rudds-47b-bonanza/2008/12/12/1228585090451.html

Work on Hunter Valley rail lines on track

21 Jul, 2009

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is building the $134 million first stage of the Minimbah Bank rail line, which includes construction of about 10 kilometres of rail track from Minimbah, west of Belford to Whittingham.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd started construction work on May 14 by turning the first sod.

http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/work-on-hunter-valley-rail-lines-on-track/1573005.aspx

crude_the_incredible_journey_of_oil An earlier Hansen interview with the ABC TV 7.30 report:  Scientist predicts disastrous sea level rise

http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2007/s1870955.htm

And the climate change link to oil:  Crude – the incredible journey of oil

“Nearly 7 billion of us depend on it. Yet few of us know what it is, where it comes from or how it’s shaping the very future of life on Earth”

http://www.abc.net.au/science/crude

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