"The problem is that 90% of energy is fossil fuels. And that is such a huge business, it has permeated our government," said James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. He added that "both the executive branch and the legislative branch are strongly influenced by special fossil fuel interests."
"The industry is misleading the public and policy makers about the cause of climate change. And that is analogous to what the cigarette manufacturers did. They knew smoking caused cancer, but they hired scientists who said that was not the case."
"Government public relations officials", he said, filter the facts in science reports to reduce "concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions."
In a paper submitted to Science magazine, Hansen calls for phasing-out coal emissions and taxing their emissions until they are phased out. The paper further calls for reforestation and notes that biochar, produced in pyrolysis of residues from crops, forestry, and animal wastes, can be used to restore soil fertility while storing carbon for centuries to millennia.
Commenting on his paper, Hansen told the Guardian that the EU target of 550 parts per million (ppm) of C02 - the most stringent in the world - should be slashed to 350ppm. At levels as high as 550ppm, the world would warm by 6C, the paper says. Previous estimates had suggested warming would be just 3C at that point.
Hansen's team claim their research offers a more accurate assessment of the threat than recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as instead of using theoretical models it is based on core samples from the bottom of the ocean that provide evidence from the Earth's climatic history.
It also takes greater account of recent evidence showing the effect of so-called feedback mechanisms, such as the process whereby the melting of icecaps to be replaced by ocean reduces the albedo effect meaning more heat is absorbed and the ice retreats still faster."If you leave us at 450ppm for long enough it will probably melt all the ice - that's a sea rise of 75 meters. What we have found is that the target we have all been aiming for is a disaster - a guaranteed disaster," Hansen said.
As ice sheets recede, the warming effect is compounded. Satellite technology available over the past three years has shown that the ice sheets are melting much faster than expected, with Greenland and west Antarctica both losing mass.
Hansen said that he now regards as "implausible" the view of many climate scientists that the shrinking of the ice sheets would take thousands of years. "If we follow business as usual I can't see how west Antarctica could survive a century. We are talking about a sea-level rise of at least a couple of metres this century."
Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? - James Hansen et al.
Earth in crisis, warns NASA's top climate scientist - AFP
Climate target is not radical enough - study - The Guardian
NASA scientist calls for stricter emission targets - BusinessGreen