Humanity has not turned the corner on global warming, says climatologist Jim Hansen
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that the first half of 2017, through June, was not far behind last year’s record-setting heat. Since 2014, global average temperatures have remained much higher than any previous year, to the surprise of climate scientists.
Meanwhile, the world’s most prominent climate expert, Jim Hansen, says the factors causing global warming are getting worse, not better as widely reported, and he insists that methane emissions must be dramatically reduced, beginning immediately.
In releasing the updated version of the Young People’s Burden study by Hansen and a multi-disciplined team of leading scientists, Hansen stated:
Even the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement, to keep global warming below 1.5°C, is not adequate. A current narrative, that humanity has turned the corner and is moving toward solving the global warming problem, is wrong. Atmospheric greenhouse gases are not only continuing to increase rapidly, their growth rate has actually accelerated rapidly in the past several years.
And that’s largely because of methane: Hansen co-author Michael Prather states: “What is particularly worrying about the recent uptick in greenhouse gas climate forcing, is that it is driven in part by the recent surge in methane abundance, while reduced methane is one of the requirements in most pathways to reduced greenhouse gas forcing.” [emphasis added]
Hansen’s team also reminds us that ice sheet failure could cause sea levels to rise 10 feet or more within 50 years.
Meanwhile, the Center for Public Integrity recently broke through the national silence on the fracking-methane-climate connection with an excellent article on regulatory-industry corruption and a section on climate with Cornell University’s Dr. Robert Howarth: “Howarth sees the rapid rise in [natural] gas development as a contributor to the recent spike in global temperatures, including record-breaking heat waves in 2015 and 2016.
‘The buildout of pipelines,’ he said, ‘is a true climate disaster.’”
Howarth and his colleagues also emphasize that due to methane’s super potency – 86 to 100 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat – the climate responds very quickly to it. As the US fracking boom has become a leading source of methane emissions, the climate is responding with more heat. Howarth says the climate should also respond – positively – if we stop pouring so much methane into the air in between the well sites and power plants. Capturing the venting and leakage of methane is cost effective – and essential to averting climate chaos.
As regional heatwaves, wildfires and other extremes continue their nightmarish advance alongside the incredible rate of global heating, the oil, gas and power industries don’t want the public to know about the methane-climate connection. They prefer to keep building unneeded power plants and pipelines while stifling the transition to economically superior clean energy solutions.