The Struggle of Clear Climate Communication

Mar 29, 2016

Photo credit: Chinese Stringer Network / Reuters

By Robinson Meyer

There has never before been a scientific study quite like the one released this week by James Hansen, a climate scientist and the former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.The paper, published Tuesday in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, reports that the near-term effects of climate change could be much more catastrophic than previously anticipated.

It warns that, by 2100, the planet’s natural system could change so dramatically that enormous “superstorms,” sometimes powerful enough to hurl ocean boulders hundreds of feet into the air, will form in the Atlantic Ocean. Seas could also rise so quickly that they will inundate coastal cities—including New York, Washington, and San Francisco—rendering them unlivable before the end of the century.

Hansen’s paper isn’t the first to spell out a scenario for climate doom. What makes it so harrowing, though, is that it says all these consequences would follow the global average temperature rising a relatively small amount: only two degrees Celsius. That isn’t an arbitrary target. The nations of the world have repeatedly agreed to keep climate change specifically below two degrees Celsius, but, without as yet uninvented technology, it will be scientifically unlikely.

If these terrifying conclusions sound familiar, it’s because they were first in the news last summer, when Hansen and his 18 co-authors—all climatologists, geologists, or academic scientists in their own right—released the paper online before it was peer reviewed. They said that the paper’s findings were too urgent, and the United Nations climate negotiations that December too imminent, to wait for the complete publication process.“Given the inertia of the climate and energy systems, and the grave threat posed by continued high emissions, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations,” they wrote, in the paper’s conclusion.

Source: The Atlantic

One comment on “The Struggle of Clear Climate Communication”

  • The worrying feature, is that while the dishonest propagandists sponsored by the industrial carbon burners, and political stooges, have been promoting denial, and have been claiming that predictive models of climate science are “grossly exaggerated”, monitoring of the unfolding changes has fairly consistently, shown predictions to be too conservative, with actual changes more rapid and severe than earlier predictions suggested!

    There is a whole set of potential feed-back effects, which could accelerate temperature increases and change!

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