A research spearheaded by James Hansen, the US scientist who first alerted the world to the greenhouse effect, has found that global heating is accelerating faster than is currently understood and will result in a key temperature threshold being breached as soon as this decade.
The paper which was published on Thursday, predicts that the Earth’s climate is more sensitive to human-caused changes than scientists have realized until now, meaning that a “dangerous” burst of heating will be unleashed that will push the world to be 1.5C hotter than it was, on average, in pre-industrial times within the 2020s and 2C hotter by 2050.
The study led by Hansen, the former Nasa scientist who issued a foundational warning about climate change to the US Congress back in the 1980s found that the alarming speed-up of global heating, which would mean the world breaches the internationally agreed 1.5C threshold set out in the Paris climate agreement far sooner than expected, risks a world “less tolerable to humanity, with greater climate extremes,”.
Hansen said that there is a huge amount of global heating “in the pipeline” because of the continued burning of fossil fuels and Earth being “very sensitive” to the impacts of this – far more sensitive than the best estimates laid out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“We would be damned fools and bad scientists if we didn’t expect an acceleration of global warming,” Hansen was quoted as saying. “We are beginning to suffer the effect of our Faustian bargain. That is why the rate of global warming is accelerating.”
He explained that the question of whether the rate of global heating is accelerating has been keenly debated among scientists this year amid months of record-breaking temperatures. He points to an imbalance between the energy coming in from the sun versus outgoing energy from the Earth that has “notably increased”, almost doubling over the past decade. This ramp-up, he cautioned, could result in disastrous sea level rise for the world’s coastal cities.
The new research, which comprises peer-reviewed work of Hansen and more than a dozen other scientists, further argues that this imbalance, the Earth’s greater climate sensitivity and a reduction in pollution from shipping, which has cut the amount of airborne sulphur particles that reflect incoming sunlight, are causing an escalation in global heating.
Hansen and his colleagues advocate for a global carbon tax as well as, more controversially, efforts to intentionally spray sulphur into the atmosphere in order to deflect heat away from the planet and artificially lower the world’s temperature, to deal with this crisis.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.