400,000 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs Per Day
The energy of 400,000
Hanson explained that scientists know the earth is out of balance because they have methods to measure the earth’s heat reservoirs. For example, understanding that the biggest reservoir is the oceans, scientists placed 3,000 Argo floats around the world’s oceans. The results show that the upper half of the oceans are gaining heat at a substantial rate. The deep oceans are also gaining heat, but at a lesser rate. Additionally, land at depths of tens of meters is warming at a rapid rate. The total energy imbalance is about 0.60 of a watt per square meter, and when added up across the entire world, it is enormous.
Hansen explains that the energy imbalance trapped in the earth is 20 times the rate of energy used by all humanity: “…equivalent to exploding 400,000
Hansen’s paper resulted in his testifying to Congress in the 1980s. His testimony emphasized that global warming increases both extremes of the earth’s water cycle—meaning heat waves and droughts on the one hand directly from the warming but also, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, rainfall will become more extreme with stronger storms and greater flooding.
In April 2004, high-ranking
In April 2013, Hansen left NASA to begin a personal mission to educate the world about the dangers of climate change by explaining that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is “like throwing another blanket onto the bed. It reduces Earth’s heat radiation to space. So that there is a temporary energy imbalance.” According to Hansen, the longer we wait to correct the problem, the more difficult and more expensive it becomes. For example, if we had started in 2005, it would have required reductions of 3 percent per year of emissions to restore planetary energy balance and stabilize climate this century. However, if we start in 2013, it will require 6 percent reductions of emissions per year. And, if we start in 10 years, it will require 15 percent reductions of emissions per year; however, by then it will most likely be too late. “But we are not even starting,” says Hansen.
Increase in CO2
The rate of increase of CO2 today is twice the rate in the 1960s. According to CO2Now.org, the March 2013 CO2 level in the atmosphere is 397.34 ppm. Obviously, the rate of increase is growing ever faster, and the world is already within the danger zone.
Hansen’s speech touched upon climate deniers and he explains away the climate denier claim that the sun is the culprit behind global warming by countering that the current energy imbalance has occurred during the “deepest solar minimum on record when the sun’s energy reaching earth is least.”
The other prominent argument by deniers is that 800,000-year studies demonstrate that rising temperatures led CO2 changes by a few centuries, proving CO2 does not cause global warming. But the lag is exactly what science expects, as CO2 is a feedback to rising temperatures in centuries past. Studies of the distant past show that ice sheets, CO2, and methane were feedbacks that amplified global temperature change, causing ancient climate oscillations to be huge even though the climate change was initiated by a very weak force.
The important point, as far as Hansen is concerned, is that the same amplifying feedbacks are occurring today—physics does not change. As the earth warms because of the CO2 that we put into the atmosphere, ice will melt and warming oceans and melting permafrost will release CO2 and methane, amplifying hotter temperatures, the same as past millennia when slight tilts in the earth’s rotation caused identical conditions.
Ripe for Big Trouble
According to Hansen, the current climate conditions are ripe for serious climatic trouble:“GRACE (“Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment”—twin satellites launched in 2002) shows that both Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass and the rate has accelerated over the past decade—methane is starting to escape from the permafrost.
The last time CO2 was at 390 PPM, sea levels were higher by at least 50 feet—today’s (April 2013) CO2 reading is 397. Time is now the only determining factor to rising sea levels, unless corrective actions are immediately implemented.
If we continue burning fossil fuels at the current rate, sea levels could rise by 18 feet this century. If we continue burning fossil fuels at the current rate “this century…we will have started a process that is out of humanity’s control.
The results will be that ice sheets will continue to disintegrate and there will be no stable shorelines in the world; the economic consequences will be unthinkable; many species will be exterminated; and coastal cities will be entirely flooded
One recent example of impending doom is that the world has experienced extraordinary heat waves these past few years. Examples of extreme heat include the 2012 drought in the
Destined to Persist
Governmental subsidies for the discovery and production of fossil fuels amount to $500 billion per year. This is comparable to the world’s governments joining forces in a space program to send a rocket ship into outer space in order to nudge the direction of a “close-by-asteroid” directly at Earth.
If the world stays on the current path of subsidizing world fossil fuel production, “this path guarantees we will pass tipping points.” This, according to Hansen, is the equivalent of knowing for certain that the giant asteroid is headed for a direct collision course with Earth.
The “tipping point” is the point of no return when the Earth has finally had enough with cascading ice sheets determining humankind’s fate. Then, it is too late. Unfortunately, the “tipping point” does not sound any alarms beforehand. It just happens.
Interestingly, Hansen started his career studying the planet Venus. Recent studies suggest that billions of years ago Venus’s atmosphere was much like the earth’s with substantial quantities of water on the surface. Over time, greenhouse gases caused evaporation of the water. Today, Venus is the hottest planet at 900 degrees F shrouded by a layer of clouds. It has the densest atmosphere of the terrestrial planets and is kept hot by a thick CO2 atmosphere. In this fashion, the fatal attraction of fossil fuels is bound to vaporize planet Earth’s precious water.