James Hansen’s Climate Bombshell: Dangerous Sea Level Rise Will Occur in Decades, Not Centuries

By Lauren McCauley
Common Dreams

Even scientists who question findings say ‘we ignore James Hansen at our peril.’

icebergDr. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who is widely credited with being one of the first to raise concerns about human-caused global warmingHuman activities are adding greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, to the atmosphere, which are enhancing the natural greenhouse effect. While the natural greenhouse effect is keeping average temperature on earth at about +15°C, this enhanced greenhouse ..., is a co-author of a new report predicting that the world will undergo devastating sea level riseSea level can change, both globally and locally, due to (i) changes in the shape of the ocean basins, (ii) changes in the total mass of water and (iii) changes in water density. Factors leading to sea level rise under global warming include both increases in the total mass of water from the ... within mere decades—not centuries, as previously thought.

The report, published Tuesday in the open-access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, paints an even bleaker picture of the planet’s future, positing that continued high fossil fuelEnergy from fossil sources, such as natural gas and oil. This type of energy contributes to climate change and because of its finite nature it is not a permanent resource. emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC) will “increase powerful storms” and drive sea-level riseSea level can change, both globally and locally, due to (i) changes in the shape of the ocean basins, (ii) changes in the total mass of water and (iii) changes in water density. Factors leading to sea level rise under global warming include both increases in the total mass of water from the ... of “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years.”

Hansen, who now serves as the director of the Climate Science Awareness and Solutions program at Columbia University Earth Institute, published the findings along with an international team of 18 researchers and academics.

As the abstract states, the predictions “differ fundamentally from existing climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... assessments.” For example, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 predicted three feet of sea levelChanges in sea level, globally or locally, due to (i) changes in the shape of the ocean basins, (ii) changes in the total mass and distribution of water and land ice, (iii) changes in water density, and (iv) changes in ocean circulation. Sea level changes induced by changes in water density are ... rise by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissionsGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. continue unabated.

A draft version of Hansen’s paper released last year provoked wide debate among climate scientists.

Nonetheless, Michael Mann, a renowned climate scientist with the University of Pennsylvania, who is among those questioning some of the report’s “extraordinary” claims, told the New York Times, “I think we ignore James Hansen at our peril.”

The peer-edited report examines growing ice melt from Antarctica and Greenland and studies how that melting has historically amplified “feedbacks that increase subsurface ocean warming and ice shelf melting.” Taking into consideration “rapid, large, human-made climate forcing,” the study predicts a much more accelerated rate of sea level rise of several meters, beyond that which humanity is capable of adapting to.

Or, as Hansen put it, “We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control.”

These staggering claims come as climate scientists continue to reel from the frightening speed at which the Earth is warming. On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO, issued a report warning that climate change is occurring at an “alarming rate” and that world leaders must act to curb greenhouse gasesGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. now, “before we pass the point of no return.”

In a video released alongside the new report, Hansen, who left his position at NASA in 2013 so that he could fully commit himself to fighting climate change, says that the paper explores the consequences of continued greenhouse gasGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. emissions. These include “superstorms stronger than any seen in modern times,” sea level rise that will erase “all coastal cities,” and, finally, “how soon we will pass points of no return.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionAttribution is the ascription of a causal link between observed changes and a specific intervention. (Glossary Monitoring and Evaluation Terms; MERG Monitoring & Evaluation Reference Group and UNAIDS)-Share Alike 3.0 License

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