Almost 30 years ago to the day in June 1988, NASA Scientist James Hansen testified before a Congress committee in Washington. He explained …
“Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming…It is already happening now … The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now…We already reached the point where the greenhouse effect is important.”
It was a historically important moment in the history of climate change because this is the event that brought it all into public consciousness. I’m really not exaggerating that …
…According to Timothy M. O’Donnell of the University of Mary Washington, Hansen’s testimony was “pivotal,” “ignited public discussion of global warming and moved the controversy from a largely scientific discussion to a full blown science policy debate,” and marked “the official beginning of the global warming policy debate.” According to Roger A. Pielke of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Hansen’s “call to action” “elevated the subject of global warming and the specter of associated impacts such as more hurricanes, floods, and heat waves, to unprecedented levels of attention from the public, media, and policy makers.”
Almost thirty years later he is being interviewed and so once again he is back in the news. Is he going with “I told you so”. No, not at all, the consequences are simply too dire …
“I don’t want to be right in that sense,” Hansen told The Associated Press, in an interview is his New York penthouse apartment. That’s because being right means the world is warming at an unprecedented pace and ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland are melting.
Hansen said what he really wishes happened is “that the warning be heeded and actions be taken.”
They weren’t. Hansen, now 77, regrets not being “able to make this story clear enough for the public.”
There was also a paper
Back in 1988, he and his colleagues issued a paper that contained very specific predictions. So how did that all work out now that it is 30 years later?
Hansen projected that by 2017, the globe’s five-year average temperature would be about 1.85 degrees (1.03 degree Celsius) higher than the 1950 to 1980 NASA-calculated average. NASA’s five-year average global temperature ending in 2017 was 1.48 degrees above the 30-year average. (He did not take into account that the sun would be cooling a tad, which would reduce warming nearly two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit, said the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Jeff Severinghaus.)
Hansen also predicted a certain number of days of extreme weather — temperature above 95 degrees, freezing days, and nights when the temperatures that don’t drop below 75 — per year for four U.S. cities in the decade of the 2010s.
Hansen’s forecast generally underestimated this decade’s warming in Washington, overestimated it in Omaha, was about right in New York and mixed in Memphis.
Clara Deser, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said Hansen’s global temperature forecast was “incredible” and his extremes for the cities were “astounding” in their accuracy. Berkeley Earth’s Zeke Hausfather gives Hansen’s predictions a 7 or 8 for accuracy, out of 10; he said Hansen calculated that the climate would respond a bit more to carbon dioxide than scientists now think.
Phys.Org also looks at how things have progressed
Thirty years later, it’s clear that Hansen and other doomsayers were right. But the change has been so sweeping that it is easy to lose sight of effects large and small—some obvious, others less conspicuous.
Earth is noticeably hotter, the weather stormier and more extreme. Polar regions have lost billions of tons of ice; sea levels have been raised by trillions of gallons of water. Far more wildfires rage.
Over 30 years—the time period climate scientists often use in their studies in order to minimize natural weather variations—the world’s annual temperature has warmed nearly 1 degree (0.54 degrees Celsius), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the temperature in the United States has gone up even more—nearly 1.6 degrees.
For some, denial is still a mantra, but that is simply a denial of reality. For their article, the AP interviewed more than 50 scientists, and they all confirmed the depth and spread of warming. This is not opinion, but instead is fact-based.
What Does the now Retired James Hansen do?
He is still active …
Hansen, still at Columbia University, has been arrested five times for environmental protests. Each time, he hoped to go to trial “to draw attention to the issues” but the cases were dropped. He writes about saving the planet for his grandchildren, including one who is suing the federal government over global warming inaction. His advocacy has been criticized by scientific colleagues, but he makes no apologies.
Let’s permit him to have the last few words here …
“If scientists are not allowed to talk about the policy implications of the science, who is going to do that?”