Citizen Action Monitor

“We old people are leaving you a frigging mess”, with a climate almost out of control – Jim Hansen

“Young people need to not only understand the problem, they need to understand realistic solutions.”

No 1962 Posted by fw, May 22, 2017

Dr. James Hansen

“I’m glad to see our young people in the audience. You’ve got a challenge. And it’s a big one. We old people are leaving you a frigging mess, with a climate that is on the verge of running out of control. And enormous growing national debt. College costs that are obscene. And on and on. But I’m an optimist. I think it’s possible to solve the big problems. But the reason I am an optimist is because I saw how young people affected Obama and Bernie Sanders campaigns. However, although young people, in effect, elected Obama in 2008…. The swamp in Washington took over. And frankly Obama didn’t really get it. He didn’t understand what was needed.”Jim Hansen

On March 8, 2017, Dr, James Hansen, in a kind of climate change 101 address, a sweeping spectrum of climate change, talked for 50 minutes about what young people will have to do to take charge of the mess they will inherit from the boomers. His talk, titled, Global Climate Change: How Can Young People Take Charge of Their Future? was the keynote address of Williams College’s “Confronting Climate Change” year of inquiry.

Hansen, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where he directs the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, is best known for his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue.

In this five-and-a-half minute post, the first in a series, Hansen first outlines the global climate crisis, explaining why the crisis, although urgent, has largely been ignored, why there’s a need for a rapid reduction of CO2 emissions, and why a technically feasible solution is not even being proposed by Washington.

Secondly, he briefly explains why the failure to act is a potential injustice to young people, to people living in southern regions of the globe, and to other species.

At the very end of this post you will read this comment spoken by Hansen: “For some reason we went the wrong direction.” Apparently, at some point, he got mixed up and departed from his prepared text. The confusion may have occurred because he was consulting two laptops throughout his address and may have lost track of the talking point sequence.

Below is the full, embedded 72-minute video of his presentation – 50-minute talk, followed by a Q&A section. Included as well, are my subheadings, transcript of the first-five-and-a-half minutes, and copies of Hansen’s slides. To access the full video, without a transcript, click on the following You Tube linked title.

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Climate Expert Jim Hansen explains the Climate Crisis, James Hansen address at Williams College, You Tube, May 20, 2017 (72 minutes)

TRANSCRIPT

You’ve got a challenge. And it’s a big one – a frigging mess

I’m glad to see our young people in the audience. You’ve got a challenge. And it’s a big one.

We old people are leaving you a frigging mess, with a climate that is on the verge of running out of control. And enormous growing national debt. College costs that are obscene. And on and on.

But I’m an optimist. I think it’s possible to solve the big problems. But the reason I am an optimist is because I saw how young people affected Obama and Bernie Sanders campaigns. However, although young people, in effect, elected Obama in 2008, which was a great day for America – I remember I had tears in my eyes during that election night – but it did not solve the problems.

Obama didn’t really get it

The swamp in Washington took over. And frankly Obama didn’t really get it. He didn’t understand what was needed.

Young people must understand the solutions as well as the problem

Young people need to not only understand the problem, they need to understand realistic solutions. And all that I can do is tell you some of the things that I have witnessed in 75 years, and hope that it may help you.

GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS

We have a global climate crisis. The reason it’s urgent is because of the inertia on the system. It doesn’t respond quickly. The 4-kilometer deep ocean and the 3-kilometer thick ice sheets don’t respond quickly when we apply this forcing by adding greenhouse gases that are like a blanket that tend to warm the surface.

And there are amplifying feedbacks. So there is a possibility of losing control of the system because of the response that’s still in the pipeline. What that means is we’re going to have to reduce those forcings and those forcings are primarily from burning of fossil fuels. And that carbon dioxide that is produced stays in the climate system for millennia.

A solution is technically possible but it’s not even being proposed

It turns out that a solution is technically possible. And it’s economically beneficial – extremely beneficial. And yet it’s not even being proposed.

POTENTIAL INJUSTICE

Injustice to the young

And this is an injustice to young people because of the potential of leaving – of you inheriting a system that’s out of control.

North to South injustice

It’s also an injustice of the industrial north to the rest of the planet because the industrial north has burned most of the carbon budget for the world. And the climate impacts are largest at low latitudes where the people have not done much to cause the problem.

Risk of driving other species to extinction

Furthermore, it’s one species affecting all the others on the planet. And there’s the potential that in combination with the other stresses that people are putting on species, that we could drive a quarter to a half of the species to extinction, commit them to extinction by the end of the century.

I’m just going to say a few words about that. There are multiple things we’re doing that put stress on a different species. But when you combine that with the shifting climate zone, that introduces a possibility of extinction because some species move rapidly to stay within a climate zone that they’re adapted to. And the changes that we’re introducing are more than a factor of 10 faster than any that have occurred in the history of the earth

Addition of CO2 to the atmosphere is occurring ten times faster than it was 55 million years ago

During the Paleocene Eocene, thermal maximum about 55 million years ago there was a burst of carbon CO2 increase in the atmosphere which was about as large as burning all the fossil fuels. But it occurred over two to four thousand years. We’re doing it all in one or two centuries. So, it’s ten times faster.

Millions of species associated with coral reefs are at risk of rising sea levels and ocean acidification

Here’s the one example that I’ll show. Coral reefs are the rainforests of the oceans. There are millions of species associated with coral reefs. Not only the warming of the oceans, but also the acidification of the oceans. As we add more CO2, the oceans become more acid, and those animals that have a carbonate skeleton will tend to dissolve. So, we’re losing 1 to 2 percent of the coral reefs per year. We need to control the amount of CO2 and stop it from increasing is we want them to survive on the long run. The rising sea level also affects the coral reefs.

For some reason, we went the wrong direction.

END OF PART 1

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