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Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Edward J. Markey, Chairman.
1. June 23, 2008 - Global Warming Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near, James Hansen.
2. June 23, 1988 - Statement of Dr. James Hansen, Director, NASA Goddard for Space Studies.
3. Oil has us under a barrel, and we're not getting up, Michael Warren, June 24, 2008.
Car in a jar ... all good, proper thing.
Check out the Aptera, electric / electric gas hybrid / electric deisel hybrid, 30 grand or so, 200+ mpg, must be something about Southern California eh?
Meanwhile, Jim Hansen is adressing Congress, giving a 20-year-later update on global warming - but nowhere can I find the original 1988 address, except a questionable pdf which I lost the source location for ... anyway, what I found is below. Neat that Global Warming is already able to evoke nostalgia ... and that 1988 is such a distant past that records hardly persist :-)
June 23, 2008 - Global Warming Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near, James Hansen (*1)
My presentation today is exactly 20 years after my 23 June 1988 testimony to Congress, which alerted the public that global warming was underway. There are striking similarities between then and now, but one big difference.
Again a wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community and what is known by policymakers and the public. Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic. Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent.
The difference is that now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next President and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation.
Otherwise it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents the climate system from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dynamically out of humanity’s control.
Changes needed to preserve creation, the planet on which civilization developed, are clear. But the changes have been blocked by special interests, focused on short-term profits, who hold sway in Washington and other capitals.
I argue that a path yielding energy independence and a healthier environment is, barely, still possible. It requires a transformative change of direction in Washington in the next year.
On 23 June 1988 I testified to a hearing, chaired by Senator Tim Wirth of Colorado, that the Earth had entered a long-term warming trend and that human-made greenhouse gases almost surely were responsible. I noted that global warming enhanced both extremes of the water cycle, meaning stronger droughts and forest fires, on the one hand, but also heavier rains and floods.
My testimony two decades ago was greeted with skepticism. But while skepticism is the lifeblood of science, it can confuse the public. As scientists examine a topic from all perspectives, it may appear that nothing is known with confidence. But from such broad open-minded study of all data, valid conclusions can be drawn.
My conclusions in 1988 were built on a wide range of inputs from basic physics, planetary studies, observations of on-going changes, and climate models. The evidence was strong enough that I could say it was time to “stop waffling”. I was sure that time would bring the scientific community to a similar consensus, as it has.
While international recognition of global warming was swift, actions have faltered. The U.S. refused to place limits on its emissions, and developing countries such as China and India rapidly increased their emissions.
What is at stake? Warming so far, about two degrees Fahrenheit over land areas, seems almost innocuous, being less than day-to-day weather fluctuations. But more warming is already “in the-pipeline”, delayed only by the great inertia of the world ocean. And climate is nearing dangerous tipping points. Elements of a “perfect storm”, a global cataclysm, are assembled.
Climate can reach points such that amplifying feedbacks spur large rapid changes. Arctic sea ice is a current example. Global warming initiated sea ice melt, exposing darker ocean that absorbs more sunlight, melting more ice. As a result, without any additional greenhouse gases, the Arctic soon will be ice-free in the summer.
More ominous tipping points loom. West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are vulnerable to even small additional warming. These two-mile-thick behemoths respond slowly at first, but if disintegration gets well underway it will become unstoppable. Debate among scientists is only about how much sea level would rise by a given date. In my opinion, if emissions follow a business-as-usual scenario, sea level rise of at least two meters is likely this century. Hundreds of millions of people would become refugees. No stable shoreline would be reestablished in any time frame that humanity can conceive.
Animal and plant species are already stressed by climate change. Polar and alpine species will be pushed off the planet, if warming continues. Other species attempt to migrate, but as some are extinguished their interdependencies can cause ecosystem collapse. Mass extinctions, of more than half the species on the planet, have occurred several times when the Earth warmed as much as expected if greenhouse gases continue to increase. Biodiversity recovered, but it required hundreds of thousands of years.
The disturbing conclusion, documented in a paper (*2) I have written with several of the world’s leading climate experts, is that the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million) and it may be less. Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. Stunning corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation.
These conclusions are based on paleoclimate data showing how the Earth responded to past levels of greenhouse gases and on observations showing how the world is responding to today’s carbon dioxide amount. The consequences of continued increase of greenhouse gases extend far beyond extermination of species and future sea level rise.
Arid subtropical climate zones are expanding poleward. Already an average expansion of about 250 miles has occurred, affecting the southern United States, the Mediterranean region, Australia and southern Africa. Forest fires and drying-up of lakes will increase further unless carbon dioxide growth is halted and reversed.
Mountain glaciers are the source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people. These glaciers are receding world-wide, in the Himalayas, Andes and Rocky Mountains. They will disappear, leaving their rivers as trickles in late summer and fall, unless the growth of carbon dioxide is reversed.
Coral reefs, the rainforest of the ocean, are home for one-third of the species in the sea. Coral reefs are under stress for several reasons, including warming of the ocean, but especially because of ocean acidification, a direct effect of added carbon dioxide. Ocean life dependent on carbonate shells and skeletons is threatened by dissolution as the ocean becomes more acid.
Such phenomena, including the instability of Arctic sea ice and the great ice sheets at today’s carbon dioxide amount, show that we have already gone too far. We must draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide to preserve the planet we know. A level of no more than 350 ppm is still feasible, with the help of reforestation and improved agricultural practices, but just barely – time is running out.
Requirements to halt carbon dioxide growth follow from the size of fossil carbon reservoirs. Coal towers over oil and gas. Phase out of coal use except where the carbon is captured and stored below ground is the primary requirement for solving global warming.
Oil is used in vehicles where it is impractical to capture the carbon. But oil is running out. To preserve our planet we must also ensure that the next mobile energy source is not obtained by squeezing oil from coal, tar shale or other fossil fuels.
Fossil fuel reservoirs are finite, which is the main reason that prices are rising. We must move beyond fossil fuels eventually. Solution of the climate problem requires that we move to carbon-free energy promptly.
Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.
CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes. Loss of countless species would leave a more desolate planet.
If politicians remain at loggerheads, citizens must lead. We must demand a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. We must block fossil fuel interests who aim to squeeze every last drop of oil from public lands, off-shore, and wilderness areas. Those last drops are no solution. They yield continued exorbitant profits for a short-sighted self-serving industry, but no alleviation of our addiction or long-term energy source.
Moving from fossil fuels to clean energy is challenging, yet transformative in ways that will be welcomed. Cheap, subsidized fossil fuels engendered bad habits. We import food from halfway around the world, for example, even with healthier products available from nearby fields. Local produce would be competitive if not for fossil fuel subsidies and the fact that climate change damages and costs, due to fossil fuels, are also borne by the public.
A price on emissions that cause harm is essential. Yes, a carbon tax. Carbon tax with 100 percent dividend (*3) is needed to wean us off fossil fuel addiction. Tax and dividend allows the marketplace, not politicians, to make investment decisions.
Carbon tax on coal, oil and gas is simple, applied at the first point of sale or port of entry. The entire tax must be returned to the public, an equal amount to each adult, a half-share for children. This dividend can be deposited monthly in an individual’s bank account.
Carbon tax with 100 percent dividend is non-regressive. On the contrary, you can bet that low and middle income people will find ways to limit their carbon tax and come out ahead. Profligate energy users will have to pay for their excesses.
Demand for low-carbon high-efficiency products will spur innovation, making our products more competitive on international markets. Carbon emissions will plummet as energy efficiency and renewable energies grow rapidly. Black soot, mercury and other fossil fuel emissions will decline. A brighter, cleaner future, with energy independence, is possible.
Washington likes to spend our tax money line-by-line. Swarms of high-priced lobbyists in alligator shoes help Congress decide where to spend, and in turn the lobbyists’ clients provide “campaign” money.
The public must send a message to Washington. Preserve our planet, creation, for our children and grandchildren, but do not use that as an excuse for more tax-and-spend. Let this be our motto: “One hundred percent dividend or fight!”
The next President must make a national low-loss electric grid an imperative. It will allow dispersed renewable energies to supplant fossil fuels for power generation. Technology exists for direct-current high-voltage buried transmission lines. Trunk lines can be completed in less than a decade and expanded analogous to interstate highways.
Government must also change utility regulations so that profits do not depend on selling ever more energy, but instead increase with efficiency. Building code and vehicle efficiency requirements must be improved and put on a path toward carbon neutrality.
The fossil-industry maintains its strangle-hold on Washington via demagoguery, using China and other developing nations as scapegoats to rationalize inaction. In fact, we produced most of the excess carbon in the air today, and it is to our advantage as a nation to move smartly in developing ways to reduce emissions. As with the ozone problem, developing countries can be allowed limited extra time to reduce emissions. They will cooperate: they have much to lose from climate change and much to gain from clean air and reduced dependence on fossil fuels.
We must establish fair agreements with other countries. However, our own tax and dividend should start immediately. We have much to gain from it as a nation, and other countries will copy our success. If necessary, import duties on products from uncooperative countries can level the playing field, with the import tax added to the dividend pool.
Democracy works, but sometimes churns slowly. Time is short. The 2008 election is critical for the planet. If Americans turn out to pasture the most brontosaurian congressmen, if Washington adapts to address climate change, our children and grandchildren can still hold great expectations.
(*1) Dr. James E. Hansen, a physicist by training, directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a laboratory of the Goddard Space Flight Center and a unit of the Columbia University Earth Institute, but he speaks as a private citizen today at the National Press Club and at a Briefing to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming.
(*2) Target atmospheric CO2: where should humanity aim? J. Hansen, M. Sato, P. Kharecha, D. Beerling, R. Berner, V. Masson-Delmotte, M. Raymo, D.L. Royer, J.C. Zachos, (here, and
(*3) The proposed “tax and 100% dividend” is based largely on the cap and dividend approach described by Peter Barnes in “Who Owns the Sky: Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism”, Island Press, Washington, D.C., 2001 (here).
Can't remember where I found this ... a pdf somewhere.
STATEMENT OF DR. JAMES HANSEN, DIRECTOR, NASA GODDARD FOR SPACE STUDIES, June 23, 1988.
Mr. Chairman and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to present the results of my research on the greenhouse effect which has been carried out with my colleagues at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
I would like to draw three main conclusions. Number one, the earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements. Number two, the global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship to the greenhouse effect. And number three, our computer climate simulations indicate that the greenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves.
My first viewgraph, which I would like to ask Suki to put up if he would, shows the global temperature over the period of instrumental records which is about 100 years. The present temperature is the highest in the period of record. The rate of warming in the past 25 years, as you can see on the right, is the highest on record. The four warmest years, as the Senator mentioned, have all been in the 1980s. And 1988 so far is so much warmer than 1987, that barring a remarkable and improbable cooling, 1988 will be the warmest year on the record.
Now let me turn to my second point which is causal association of the greenhouse effect and fee global warming. Causal association requires that the warming be larger than natural climate variability and, second, that the magnitude and nature of the warming be consistent with the greenhouse mechanism. These points are both addressed on my second viewgraph. The observed warming during the past 80 years, which is the period when we have accurate measurements of atmospheric composition, is shown by the heavy black line in this graph. The warming is almost 0.4 degrees Centigrade by 1987 relative to climatology, which is defined as the 30 year mean, 1950 to 1980 and, in fact, the warming is more than 0.4 degrees Centigrade in 1988. The probability of a chance warming of that magnitude is about 1 percent. So, with 99 percent confidence we can state that the warming during this time period is a real warming trend.
The other curves in this figure are the results of global climate model calculations for three scenarios of atmospheric trace gas growth. We have considered several scenarios because there are uncertainties in the exact trace gas growth in the past and especially in the future. We have considered cases ranging from business as usual, which is scenario A, to draconian emission cuts, scenario C, which would totally eliminate net trace gas growth by year 2000.
The main point to be made here is that the expected global warming is of the same magnitude as the observed warming. Since there is only a 1 percent chance of an accidental warming of this magnitude, the agreement with the expected greenhouse effect is of considerable significance. Moreover, if you look at the next level of detail in the global temperature change, there are clear signs of the greenhouse effect. Observational data suggests a cooling in the stratosphere while the ground is warming. The data suggest somewhat more warming over land and sea ice regions than over open ocean, more warming at high latitudes than at low latitudes, and more warming in the winter than in the summer. In all of these cases, the signal is at best just beginning to emerge, and we need more data. Some of these details, such as the northern hemisphere high latitude temperature trends, do not look exactly like the greenhouse effect, but that is expected. There are certainly other climate change factors involved in addition to the greenhouse effect.
Altogether the evidence that the earth is warming by an amount which is too large to be a chance fluctuation and the similarity of the warming to that expected from the greenhouse effect represents a very strong case. In my opinion, that the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.
Then my third point. Finally, I would like to address the question of whether the greenhouse effect is already large enough to affect the probability of extreme events, such as summer heat waves. As shown in my next viewgraph, we have used the temperature changes computed in our global climate model to estimate the impact of the greenhouse effect on the frequency of hot summers in Washington, D.C, and Omaha, Nebraska. A hot summer is defined as the hottest one-third of the summers in the 1950 to 1980 period, which is the period the Weather Bureau uses for defining climatology. So, in that period the probability of having a hot summer was 33 percent, but by the 1990s, you can see that the greenhouse effect has increased the probability of a hot summer to somewhere between 55 and 70 percent in Washington according to our climate model simulations. In the late 1980s, the probability of a hot summer would be somewhat less than that You can interpolate to a value of something like 40 to 60 percent
I believe that this change in the frequency of hot summers is large enough to be noticeable to the average person. So, we have already reached a point that the greenhouse effect is important It may also have important implications other than for creature comfort.
My last viewgraph shows global maps of temperature anomalies for a particular month, July, for several different years between 1986 and 2029, as computed with our global climate model for the intermediate trace gas scenario B. As shown by the graphs on the left where yellow and red colors represent areas that are warmer than climatology and blue areas represent areas that are colder than climatology, at the present time in the 1980s the greenhouse warming is smaller than the natural variability of the local temperature. So, in any given month, there is almost as much area that is cooler than normal as there is area warmer than normal. A few decades in the future, as shown on the right, it is warm almost everywhere.
However, the point that I would like to make is that in the late 1980's and in the 1990's we notice a clear tendency in our model for greater than average warming in the southeast United States and the midwest. In our model this result seems to arise because the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the United States warms more slowly than the land. This leads to high pressure along the east coast and circulation of warm air north into the midwest or the southeast. There is only a tendency for this phenomenon. It is certainly not going to happen every year, and climate models are certainly an imperfect tool at this time. However, we conclude that there is evidence that the greenhouse effect increases the likelihood of heat wave drought situations in the southeast and midwest United Stats even though we cannot blame a specific drought on the greenhouse effect.
Therefore, I believe that it is not a good idea to use the period 1950 to 1980 for which climatology is normally defined as an indication of how frequently droughts will occur in the future. If our model is approximately correct, such situations may be more common in the next 10 to 15 years than they were in the period 1950 to 1980.
Finally, I would like to stress that there is a need for improving these global climate models, and there is a need for global observations if we're going to obtain a full understanding of these phenomena.
That concludes my statement, and I'd be glad to answer questions if you'd like.
Oil has us under a barrel, and we're not getting up, Michael Warren, June 24, 2008.
It's not cyclical or speculation - it's the end of an era.
The Age of Abundance is over. It started its decline when crude oil careered through $80 a barrel last year. Most of us were too busy enjoying the late-summer weather to notice. Crude oil has more than doubled in price over the past 12 months, and every other form of energy is following suit.
The economies of the Western world have been built on the availability of relatively cheap energy. If oil and natural-gas prices remain where they are or higher, it will have a devastating impact on our consumer-driven standard of life.
But before we go there, let's consider the arguments advanced by the optimists.
An investment analyst I know often says, "The cure for high prices is high prices." He asserts that all commodities are cyclical, including oil. They all react the same way. When prices get too high, we find ways to use them more efficiently or we find substitutes.
Two years ago, when oil was trading at $60 a barrel, he and many others were convinced that the price wouldn't go any higher than $80. Today, with the price pushing $140, he argues that his thesis is still correct - it's just taking a little longer to materialize.
My analyst friend is not alone. Last week, the chief economist of National Bank Financial said oil should fall back to the $80 range over the next couple of years. He argues that the current price is being driven largely by speculators - the bubble is bound to burst.
I don't think so. There is growing evidence that oil is skyrocketing in direct response to the basic laws of supply and demand. China, Russia, India, Brazil and many other emerging economies are fuelling their own growth with oil, just as the West has for the past century. Jeff Rubin of CIBC World Markets maintains that this new demand is "more than making up for the price-induced drop in consumption in North America, Europe and Japan."
He also minimizes the role of speculation: "Even if speculators took physical delivery of all the future oil contracts they have bought over the last five years, it would only divert from the market about a fifth of the new oil demand from China during that period."
And world oil inventories have remained within their long-term average. So this seems to rule out hoarding as a reason for the unprecedented price rise.
Oil permeates our lives. It's in the roads we drive on and the roofs over our heads. We wrap our houses and our food in it. We walk on it, sit on it and wear it. When it's refined into gasoline, it is the most efficient and portable form of energy we have yet discovered.
The optimists are wrong. It is not like any other commodity. And the market is simply reflecting our gluttonous dependency.
Energy costs have risen so fast that we can only guess at what it will mean for our future way of life. But the early signs are everywhere.
There are daily news reports about escalating gasoline prices. A recent survey shows that 53 per cent of Canadians have already begun to change their transportation habits. Gasoline theft is becoming commonplace.
The era of cheap world air travel is likely over. The airline industry is in free-fall. Food prices are rising, largely due to transportation costs. Year-round fresh fruit is destined to be a luxury. Suburban homes that require long commutes and two cars are already losing value.
Marine shipping costs have reportedly jumped 72 per cent since last year. Our material standard of living depends on the affordable movement of goods.
Don't be surprised to see the price of imported clothes, electronics and many other staples start to climb. Some analysts are already forecasting the demise of discount chains, such as Wal-Mart, that source most of their merchandise from countries that are thousands of expensive kilometres from their major markets.
Everything to do with tourism will suffer. Instead of going on vacations, more of us will be taking "stay-cations," learning to enjoy what our own communities have to offer, whether we want to or not.
Inflation, which has been under control for nearly two decades, is showing signs of raising its ugly head again. Interest rates are bound to follow, and people on fixed incomes at or below the poverty line will be hit the hardest. They still have to eat, heat their homes and fuel their cars.
There may be a few upsides to this scenario, but not many. As the cost of imports rise, more of what we buy may be grown and manufactured closer to home. These goods will be more expensive, but they will help to create domestic jobs. More walking and cycling certainly won't hurt our health. And not having access to those tasteless, hard tomatoes every winter won't be much of a sacrifice.
If soaring costs slow consumption of carbon-based fuels, then maybe the environment will be an early beneficiary. We might even begin to see serious efforts in Canada to develop more dense, energy efficient cities that take greater advantage of existing infrastructure.
Overall, however, this not good news. Economic suffering on a large scale has already begun, and most governments, including our own, seem oblivious to the impact of runaway energy costs and the burden they will place on the most vulnerable in our society.
Before long, this will become the political issue that trumps all others.
Michael Warren is chairman of The Warren Group Inc. and a former Ontario deputy minister, chief general manager of the Toronto Transit Commission and CEO and president of Canada Post Corp.