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NASA's James Hansen Tells Congress Action on Climate Change Needed Now

June 24, 2008

If a tree falls in the forest...

My presentation today is exactly 20 years after my 23 June 1988 testimony to Congress, which alerted the public that global warming was underway. There are striking similarities between then and now, but one big difference.

Again a wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community and what is known by policymakers and the public. Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic. Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent.

The difference is that now we have used up all the slack in the schedule for the actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next President and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation.

Otherwise, it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents climate change from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dramatically out of humanity's control.

Changes needed to preserve creation, the planet on which civilization developed, are clear. But the changes have been blocked by special interests, focused on short-term profits, who hold sway in Washington and other capitals.

I argue that a path yielding enery independence and a healthier environment is, barely, still possible. It requires a transformative change of direction in Washington in the next year...

Click here for the full text (4 pages, PDF) of Hansen's remarks.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Comments

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I'm wondering why you didn't excerpt the section where he calls to put energy company CEOs on trial for "high crimes against humanity and nature" here.

Those few (but very charged) words undercut whatever message he may have had, and does provide legitimate grounds to wonder if he's crossed the line from objective scientist to zealot.

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