Hansen Study: Ice sheets to melt in a few decades, coastal cities uninhabitable

HansenIn 1988, climate scientist James Hansen announced to a select committee in Congress that over the next ten years, temperatures would increase .35 degrees Celsius. The actual increase was .11 degrees. Hansen overestimated his findings by 300 percent. Now Hansen has a new study coming out this week in the journal Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry warning that humanity could face a “sea level rise of several meters by the end of the century.” That’s a ten-foot-rise of sea levels, over 300 percent higher than what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted.

In fact, the IPCC conservatively estimates that if temperatures increase 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, we may see a three-foot-rise in sea levels. However, as an April 2015 studypublished in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports showed, “global warming was not progressing as fast as it would even under the most severe emissions scenarios as outlined by the IPCC.” The study indicated that climate models underestimate the magnitude of natural decade-to-decade climate variability, which leads to an “over-interpretation of short-term temperature trends.”

Hansen’s new study, which was previewed by the Daily Beast today, says that the IPCC’s computer models are underestimating the sensitivity of ice sheets to rising temperatures. Hansen et al combined “ancient paleo-climate data with new satellite readings” and a new and improved computer model of the climate system to demonstrate that “ice sheets can melt in a matter of decades,” and not millenia. Sea level rise has been occurring at roughly the same rate since about 10,000 years ago.

If all this doom and gloom sounds a lot like the climatastrophe flick The Day After Tomorrow, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Much of that movie was based on research done by Hansen and incorporated into Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth. “Parts of [our coastal cities] would still be sticking above the water,” Hansen told the Daily Beast, “but you couldn’t live there.” He also believes that averting warming by only 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 would create a “highly dangerous” future.

While some believe Hansen is a “climate seer,” the overall climate trend since his 1988 testimony has been more wrong than right and nobody foreshadowed there would be an abrupt standstill in the rate of global warming for the last 22 years. As The Daily Caller reported Friday, “after September of this year, the Earth will be entering its 22nd year without statistically significant warming trend, according to satellite-derived temperature data.”

The new study by Hansen and 16 colleagues believes even averting the 2.0 degree temperature increase would still not be a safe “guardrail” that the media, and some politicians, would have the world believe. Hansen also thinks the IPCC is not estimating how quickly the ice sheets can melt, which would cause catastrophic sea level rise and would “render coastal cities such as New York, London and Shanghai uninhabitable.” Except current observations show that Antarctica, Greenland, and the Arctic are not melting at the alarming rates as predicted in his new study or the IPCC’s reports.

Ironically, ten years after his congressional testimony, Hansen wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 1998 that “The forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change.” In other words, the forces that govern global warming are so poorly understood that long-term predictions, like his latest study, are impossible to make. He also wrote that moving forward, “scientists should use multiple scenarios to define a range of possible climate outcomes.”

That’s because the climate is so complicated that not a single study or computer model can predict future climate trends with any accuracy. No one forecasted or predicted that since the start of the 21st century, there would be no statistical warming based on the satellite-derived dataset. And no one could have predicted in 1988, when Hansen gave his congressional testimony and declared global warming was no longer a theory, that his prediction of a .35 degree temperature increase over 10 years would be off by 300 percent.

Hansen also believes that to avert 1.5 or even 2.0 degrees of warming the world needs to “make the price of fossil fuels honest.” If that sounds more like advocacy than science, that’s because it is. The Daily Beast reports this means making “the market price of gasoline and other products derived from fossil fuels reflect the enormous costs that burning those fuels currently externalizes onto society as a whole.” In other words, a carbon tax.

Some climate activist groups, like Citizens Climate Lobby, also want to “tax pollution, pay people,” much in the same way oil companies pay Alaskans a yearly stipend in compensation for the “impact their pipelines have on the state.” And while some believe there has been a “spectacular boom in wind and solar energy,” one need only look to Europe to see the rising costs being generated from power derived from renewable sources.

“Subsidies for new wind farms and solar power plants are set to be cut as ministers move to protect millions of families from rising energy bills,” according to yesterday’s The Sunday Telegraph. And the Daily Mail is reporting on “a ‘big reset’ of the support given to the renewable industry is expected to be announced within weeks, including cuts to funding for the solar industry.” All those green taxes showing up in people’s energy bills to subsidize renewable companies are having a powerful influence on Euro-lawmakers. Industry experts believe these green subsidies will be significantly slashed in the next few weeks.

Hansen, formerly a NASA scientist, is also a climate activist and has been arrested numerous times at climate protests. His new paper, which will undoubtedly provide the political salvo needed by countries ahead of the Paris Climate Talks, opines the world should be doing everything it can to mitigate the use of so-called greenhouse gases.

His new study will be formally released by the journal Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry this week.