NASA’s James Hansen: Copenhagen should fail

James Hansen
‘We don’t have a leader who is able to grasp [the issue] and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual,’ say James Hansen. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The scientist who convinced the world to take notice of the looming danger of global warming says it would be better for the planet and for future generations if next week’s Copenhagen climate change summit ended in collapse.

In an interview with the Guardian, James Hansen, the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, said any agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would be so deeply flawed that it would be better to start again from scratch.

“I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it’s a disaster track,” said Hansen, who heads the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

“The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then [people] will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means.” He was speaking as progress towards a deal in Copenhagen received a boost today, with India revealing a target to curb its carbon emissions. All four of the major emitters – the US, China, EU and India – have now tabled offers on emissions, although the equally vexed issue of funding for developing nations to deal with global warming remains deadlocked.

Hansen, in repeated appearances before Congress beginning in 1989, has done more than any other scientist to educate politicians about the causes of global warming and to prod them into action to avoid its most catastrophic consequences. But he is vehemently opposed to the carbon market schemes – in which permits to pollute are bought and sold – which are seen by the EU and other governments as the most efficient way to cut emissions and move to a new clean energy economy.

Read the entire article here at the Guardian:

Copenhagen climate change talks must fail, says top scientist

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84 thoughts on “NASA’s James Hansen: Copenhagen should fail

  1. “May the good fairy what sits in the sky grant yer ev’ry wish.” — Spam, in Bored of the Rings

  2. Damage limitation.

    Not much else he can say since it will produce nothing of any substance now that the developing economies, led by China, have produced their own message for the first world nations that roughly translates into english as a two fingered gesture of anglo-saxon origin

  3. Copenhagen will be a complete success in my book. The man-made global warming theory will die and the deniers that claim climate change is not man-made will win.

  4. “May the good fairy what sits in the sky grant yer ev’ry wish.” — Spam, in Bored of the Rings

    “Insult not the White Wizard, for I have many powers. Here, pick a card. Any card.”

    – ibid

  5. “the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist” In the sense that ‘climate-scientist’ is rapidly becoming a synonym for incompetent hack or worse then perhaps he is. World’s preeminent chicken little would perhaps be more accurate.

    Lord Monckton is particular scathing of his failed predictions in his comprehensive document on Climategate.

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/Monckton-Caught%20Green-Handed%20Climategate%20Scandal.pdf

    Obviously Hansen knows how to pay the media game. It doesn’t matter how many ridiculous and failed predictions you made in the past. You will never be called to account. What gets the headlines is the next prediction of global doom.

    At least he sees the nonsense of selling indulgencies.

  6. It may be Jimmy doesnt want further exposure to his own lies. Like proclaiming Oct 08 the warmest month ever when using September data from Russia, or saying the 90’s were the hottest decade when he forgot (conveniently) that his own data showed the 30’s were as hot or hotter. Or maybe even someone would dig up the fact that this totally unbiased scientist was a research assistant in the 70’s on a paper that purported to show that man’s use of fossil fuel was responsible for
    (ta-da) the coming ice age! Brrrrr.

  7. Note the clear skies in the background, with a few clouds. The photo of him would have been much more effective if he’d been standing in front of a large parabolic cooling tower at a nuclear power plant that was spewing vast amounts of water vapor (greenhouse gas) into the air.

  8. Hansen and the Sceptics. What strange bedfellows.

    As the old saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”

    Welcome Jim.

    JT

  9. “• James Hansen’s book Storms of My Grandchildren is published by Bloomsbury, £18.99”

    He differs only over the method of implementation of tax, not the underlying issues.

    Still, another talking point in the MSM in the run up to Copenhagen… it even got a mention at the end of BBC’s Newsnight tonight when they covered tomorrow’s front pages.

  10. While I don’t agree with James Hansen 99.99% of the time – on this point he is 100% correct. Copenhagen should fail….for many reasons.

    Even if “Global Warming” was the problem the faithful (because it is nothing more than a faith-based cult at this point) claim it is, Copenhagen would do absolutely zero (in fact less than zero given the amount of wasted time, paper, money and energy already devoted to the process) to solve it.

    Its the equivalent of paying $1000 extra a year on car insurance, to prevent your house from being infested with termites.

  11. As I understand it, this is the attitude that Hansen has consistently taken for a long time. This article does not indicate any change, and should come as no surprise.

  12. Hansen has always opposed ‘cap and trade’ – he is a ‘carbon tax’ advocate. Along with his support of nuclear energy makes him not always popular with the green crowd.

  13. What Jim is really saying is that the whole thing snowballed and got away from him.
    He handed it over to the pols, who made a game out of it, and finding in the ranks of scientists those whom they could buy, ran with it.
    Hansen needs to be very specific about what he had in mind.
    How is this “Shut CopenHagen Down” any different than “Shut all the Coal Plants Down”?
    If I caught his drift, anything he does not agree with should be shut down, including dissenting opinion.
    Did I miss anything?

  14. Don’t be fooled. Hansen wants a global carbon tax administered by the UN. He’s just objecting to the “offset” part of Carbon Offsets. He would be more than happy to reduce the human footprint on this planet thru whatever means are available.

  15. This appears to be a CYA move by Jimmy, as well as play the media.

    I am sure he knows he is culpable.

    I think Obama and others who may not really be willing to “understand” the fraud that has been ongoing since the inception of AGW.

    The players may just proceed as if they must save the world now.

  16. carry on like this and we’re done for. We’ll be toast. 3 years to go. It’ll all happen after that. Copenhagen must fail thus.

    There’s still hope though through direct carbon tax.

  17. RConnelly (15:33:35)

    its interesting. Lovelock is similarly rasputinesque about human involement in the planet and how we’re done for no matter what we do.. And he’s a nuclear advocate too.

  18. So, what is his alternative plan then? I didn’t see one. Not that his opinion should count for anything anyway. Leave politics to the politicians. The scientists should stick to science. Post normalism in science is how we got into this mess in the first place.

  19. Thermageddon prophet Hanson is worried that the Earth may become Venus, with parboiled seas and an atmosphere so heavy it will squash bugs, except there won’t be any bugs at 1000 degrees K.

    His solution: tax, tax, tax, and tax some more.

    So when you say you “agree” with Jimbo, you might want to qualify it slightly, lest people start thinking that you’re nuts to the bone, too.

  20. I understand him. He actually believes in AGW, so he wants effective measures to decrease CO2, not new taxes. Of course he disagrees with the politicos.

  21. “He has irked some environmentalists by espousing a direct carbon tax on fuel use.”

    Nobody ever said that a carbon tax per se is carbon neutral. In fact, all it stands to achieve is a redistribution of CO2 emissions from the private sector to the public sector.

    We can hardly start to imagine all the things our governments will do to waste the sudden and massive increase in tax revenue. There would be a huge expansion in public sector expenditure and that means employment. All of those extra public sector employees would spend their wages on goods and services which produce CO2 – probably CO2 emissions in other countries as production moves abroad to avoid the tax.

    There would be huge incentive for businesses and individuals to minimise their tax bills. Think about the large bureaucracy involved in administration and policing of CO2 emissions and the taxation. Think about how the taxation system would steadily become more complex and difficult to administer as successive govenments tinke with it to address weaknesses and to achieve political goals.

    And when governments are enriched by these additional tax revenues, they could find the money burning a hole in their pocket. What to do with it? More armaments? More foreign policy initiatives in far away lands?

    Now some argue that the carbon tax could be spent on development and promotion of low carbon technologies. But the flaw in that argument is that if they really believe that line of reasoning, there is nothing to stop them from making their own investments in those technologoes right now. In the private sector.

    Whene people push the taxation route, it only shows how they don’t have the courage of their convictions to put their own money where their mouth is. If they cannot invest privately in green technologies, why should anybody listen to them about a tax.

    Carbon taxation = another flawed argument. Sorry to be so negative.

  22. Methinks the Astro Physicist (not climatologist) Dr. Hanson could not find a way to get a pass on the payolla wagon for the industrial indulgences for carbon sins. I think he is maneuvering for another Sorros/Heinz payday. His transparency is commendable – – NOT!

  23. Michael (15:37:08) :

    I can see the headlines now;
    THE DENIERS WIN IN COPENHAGEN

    I keep repeating my self here, but to be politically correct that should actually be:
    THE ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS WIN IN COPENHAGEN

  24. Just another red herring, or a diversion. When a fraud begins to unveil, you have to create another know-better-than-thou statement, aloof from the two *opposing* sides, yet siding with the one you helped create. He plays climate science like Talleyrand played politics.

  25. “the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist,”

    That’s some mirror you’ve got there Jimmy.

    dDes it make you look 20 pounds lighter as well?

  26. Here is another disillusioned one that persists…

    Guardian:
    Enough posturing politics. Time to let the experts lead

    “We can only marvel at the disarray. Here we are, 17 years after the signing of the UN framework convention on climate change, two years after the decision in Bali to agree a new climate policy, one year after Barack Obama’s election, and days out from the Copenhagen conference. Yet a real global strategy to avoid catastrophe remains elusive.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/02/copenhagen-climate-change-science

  27. I have to say that Jim Hansen is my favorite climate scientologist. He really knows how to simplify climate scientology for the journalists.

    The rest of the pro-AGW muppets, such as Phil Jones and Mike “Nature trick” Mann, aren’t nearly so skilled when it comes to media relations.

  28. Shouldn’t the third paragraph begin: In an interview, Jim Hansen who USED TO BE one the world’s preiminet…..?

  29. Okay, I’ll take Hansen’s statement as sincere, not any sort of CYA bail-out. He’s right about Copenshagen for the wrong reasons, but he’s still right. And he’s right about nuclear power for the wrong reasons, too.

    Yeah, Kevin, the fisheye lens was unkind; this was not Hansen’s best mugshot. But you must admit he’s really quite handsome compared to, say, Rajendra Pachauri, yes?

    Would you buy a used climate model from this man?

  30. P Wilson (15:40:58):

    Lovelock is similarly rasputinesque about human involement in the planet and how we’re done for no matter what we do.

    Can anyone actually be sure that he’s wrong?

    Do we know how much of a forcing would be required to trigger an unstoppable transition to a much warmer, ice-free world?

  31. But, COP15 president Connie Hedegaard said “failure in Copenhagen is not an option”. She called it a “window of opportunity” , and that it would be “irresponsible not to use the momentum now”.
    Of course, that was before Climategate. Doh!

    Finally, she says:
    “If the whole world comes to Copenhagen and leaves without making the needed political agreement, then I think it’s a failure that is not just about climate. Then it’s the whole global democratic system not being able to deliver results in one of the defining challenges of our century. And that is and should not be a possibility. It’s not an option,” Connie Hedegaard tells cop15.dk in an interview.

    “The needed political agreement.” Plenty of wiggle room there. Guaranteed, whatever happens, no matter how ridiculously pathetic, it will be called something like a “good start to what will certainly be more ambitious talks next year” and “a triumph of man vs human nature”, or some such climate doublespeak.

  32. Hansen suspects what many here already know, Copenhagen will be a total fudge to please the politicians, half made empty promises and pap.
    All hot air, something for dead duck PMs like Brown to show his ‘adoring’ nation.
    I hope the conference is a failure, not for Hansen’s reasons though.
    I hope this will bring about the end to global ‘consensus’ on AGW.
    Something which we would do better researching far more openly with published data sets -the CO2/ water vapour/methane/aerosols GHG forcing conundrum.
    And let there be a little pragmatism a lot more science and less backbiting, instead of the chicken little approach.
    Before we start taxing the Western World back into the middle ages.

  33. I submitted this to the RealClimate site:

    The lights flash, blink, and then extinguish leaving you in the freezing dark. You feel the cold sea water surge around your ankles and calves. The deck tilts and you feel the world slide sickeningly into the abyss. Your heart pounds in your chest. Its all over. Your God is dead.

    For some reason, it wasn’t posted.

  34. The man-made global warming theory will die and the deniers that claim climate change is not man-made will win.

    I think about now nearly everyone thinks it is man-made. The only remaining question is it only the theory that is man-made or is the warming man-made ?

  35. Icarus asked:
    Do we know how much of a forcing would be required to trigger an unstoppable transition to a much warmer, ice-free world?

    You mean, of, course, a “tipping point”, which is a silly Alarmist construct. A good clue would be to look at the MWP, and what caused that period to be warmer (hint, it wasn’t C02). If you absolutely must worry about climate though, worry about cooling, which is far more dangerous. Oh, wait, cooling isn’t caused by man (or is it – you Alarmists keep changing your story), so the issue isn’t so much our climate, but being able to blame mankind. Have I got that about right?

  36. Bruce Cobb (17:07:06):

    Icarus asked:
    Do we know how much of a forcing would be required to trigger an unstoppable transition to a much warmer, ice-free world?

    You mean, of, course, a “tipping point”…

    Well to be specific I’m referring to long-term positive feedbacks involving ice sheets, vegetation changes, failure of carbon sinks etc. – anything that would amplify the original forcing to the point where a dramatic climate change would ensue even if the original forcing stopped. Palaeoclimate seems to show a lot of sawtoothiness rather than gentle changes.

  37. Icarus: “Do we know how much of a forcing would be required to trigger an unstoppable transition to a much warmer, ice-free world?” The study I saw (using climate models with considerable warming) showed that tipping points exist for certain areas, but not the world as a whole. While many Arctic areas would warm considerably, there would be large variations in water vapor feedback for the warmer parts of the world. Temperate and tropical zones would tip in both directions, some turning into desert and some desert (e.g. the Sahara) greening over. All these were local tipping points (dryness causing more dryness and wetness causing more wetness).

    Also Icarus, you may want to consider that the world was 2-3 C warmer 5000 to 8000 years ago, but there was no world-wide tipping point then.

  38. The church of Mannmade global warming is having a church split.

    James Hansen has taken some followers and split.

  39. I would vote for Sarah Palin for POTUS for no other reason than she would have the cajones to fire this jerk.

  40. Icarus (16:38:28): You raise Pascal’s Wager. Richard Dawkin’s has proposed an anti-Pascal Wager which, in environmental guise, might be expressed thus:

    “Suppose we grant that there is indeed some small chance that [a dangerous tipping point is nigh]. Nevertheless, it could be said that more probably everyone will lead a better, fuller life if you bet on it not happening than if you bet on it happening and therefore squander your precious time and resources on worshipping [the one true God of The Environment], sacrificing to Him, fighting and dying for Him, etc.”

    Pascal’s Wager is, in my view, much overplayed.

  41. Bones:
    That Harris poll was conducted November 2 through 11, before the CRU emails came to light. I wonder what the results would look like now?

  42. “In an interview with the Guardian, James Hansen, the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist…”

    Not any more.

  43. Steve Schapel (15:25:58) :
    As I understand it, this is the attitude that Hansen has consistently taken for a long time. This article does not indicate any change, and should come as no surprise.

    I agree. The only “problem” I have with Hansen is (I think) he is wrong and has invested to much of his life in a silly model to be able see past it. Hansen believes in science and also happens to really believe in AGW. Unlike Gore, Mann etc. Hansen expects AGW will win out in an honest scientific debate.

  44. If Hansen want this Copenhagen summit to fail, all he has to do is to publish his code and raw data used.

  45. Now I know what to get him for Christmas. A failed climate conference. I will get him some socks as well though :)

  46. Maybe he’s nervous about coming to the new european empire in case we have another look at his sworn expert witness evidence at the Kingsnorth power station trial.

  47. O/T but I could not find anywhere more appropriate.

    Ed Miliband is Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change here in the UK.

    This Saturday, I’ll be holding the first ever ministerial mass phone call and I want you to join me.

    I’ll let you know where negotiations are up to and take questions about the Copenhagen summit at 10am on Saturday.

    http://www.edspledge.com/could-you-give-me-a-call

    When I head out to Copenhagen, I want to tell world leaders about the depth of support for a deal and the passion of the people in this campaign – including you.

    I am sure some of your more knowledgable British readers would have more impact than I ever could.

  48. A couple of questions for Icarus.

    The Earth has had much higher levels of C02 and temperatures in the past without the planet going into runaway warming situation. Why is this so?

    And please look at the alarmists failed prediction and shifting “tipping points” to help you realise why some of us are so sceptical of AGW. Read the links below and ask yourself if these predictions / forecasts have failed so miserably in the past why should we believe anything you warn us about catastrophic AGW? Don’t give me models I want facts.

    Hansen’s Failed Prediction
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/22/a-little-known-but-failed-20-year-old-climate-change-prediction-by-dr-james-hansen/

    Failed Predictions Galore
    http://www.c3headlines.com/predictionsforecasts/
    http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content/global-warming-predictions-invalidated
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;326/5953/716

    Shifting Tipping Points
    http://www.climatedepot.com/a/3826/Not-again-Another-10year-climate-tipping-point-warning-issued–Despite-fact-that-UN-began-10Year-Climate-Tipping-Point-in-1989
    http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=SJ&s_site=mercurynews&p_multi=SJ&p_theme=realcities&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EB7304FF9A84273&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM

  49. It is hard to trust Hansen even when he is predicting Copenhagen will fail. Does it matter what China promises? How exactly would you go about enforcing emissions reductions in China? India? EU?

    Why do you suppose that every time I think of Copenhagen I am reminded of Macbeth? “it is a tale. Told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing…”

  50. Eric (skeptic) (17:24:32):

    Icarus: “Do we know how much of a forcing would be required to trigger an unstoppable transition to a much warmer, ice-free world?”

    The study I saw (using climate models with considerable warming) showed that tipping points exist for certain areas, but not the world as a whole. While many Arctic areas would warm considerably, there would be large variations in water vapor feedback for the warmer parts of the world. Temperate and tropical zones would tip in both directions, some turning into desert and some desert (e.g. the Sahara) greening over. All these were local tipping points (dryness causing more dryness and wetness causing more wetness).

    Interesting. I need to read more about this.

    Also Icarus, you may want to consider that the world was 2-3 C warmer 5000 to 8000 years ago, but there was no world-wide tipping point then.

    Do you have any evidence to back that up? My understanding is that the world hasn’t been warmer than it is now in the 12,000 years since the last glaciation, and that you’d have to go back millions of years to find a time when it was 2 – 3°C warmer. I could be wrong.

  51. @Icarus You may wish to review the pollen, etc. that was present in more northern climates during both the Roman warming period and the Medieval warming period. The Vikings really did have working farms on Greenland during the Medieval period. They did a dig on one recently and came up with sheep manure and all the rest. You may also wish to review the artifacts that have been recovered from the Alps. Some of the alpine passes were used as trade routes complete with Roman garrison stations to exact taxation on the trade routes.

  52. Butch (03:26:43) :
    Why do you suppose that every time I think of Copenhagen I am reminded of Macbeth? “it is a tale. Told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing…”

    Because you were educated with allegory? History and literature contain the real warnings for the present. The future’s not ours to see, Que Sera Sera. :)
    It’s why generations of children were educated with such things as Aesop’s Fables and Grimm’s Fairy Tales before saturating them in Sesame Street.

    No one was ever before arrogant enough to try to control the future beyond their own three score and ten.
    Perhaps this cultural arrogance is a function of not having enough children to realize how little control we really have of anything. Teenagers teach you that. I think these scientists are transhumanists, whether they know it or not.

  53. Greg Goodknight (15:36:20) :

    “The grapes are sour anyway”, said the fox.

    Another Aesop fable comes to mind with the EU having a cap and trade policy and trying to sell it to the whole world: “The fox lost its tail in a trap, and went around trying to convince the rest that taillessness is in”

  54. Icarus (04:40:16) :
    “Also Icarus, you may want to consider that the world was 2-3 C warmer 5000 to 8000 years ago, but there was no world-wide tipping point then.”

    Do you have any evidence to back that up? My understanding is that the world hasn’t been warmer than it is now in the 12,000 years since the last glaciation, and that you’d have to go back millions of years to find a time when it was 2 – 3°C warmer. I could be wrong.

    Look at the plots http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vostok-ice-core-petit.png
    Two degrees are there, and we are on a downward curve for sure, the only true prophecy: the ice age will come, we do not know the time.

    Do not be fooled by the black average. It is specious averaging different proxies because even after very careful intercallibrations, the time intervals are dubious ( I just sat through a carbon 14 paleontological dating lecture, and learned that the latteral errors can be very large the further back one goes).

  55. Hansen is deeply mentally ill.

    I’m not joking, unfortunately.

    And it’s sad that someone as sick as he has gotten to be in charge.

  56. Icarus,

    I take your desire to learn to be sincere. If it is, I highly recommend:

    Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic History of North American Vegetation, 1999, Oxford Univ. Press, by Dr. Alan Graham, Paleontologist Emeritus of Kent State.

    The Amazon listing is here:

    http://tinyurl.com/ybgl7jn

    but you might want to check it out at your university library because it’s expensive.

    Graham’s book is a masterwork synthesis of paleobotany and paleoclimatology. Everything you wish to know about past climates going back ~70 million years is in there.

  57. Icarus (17:22:56) :
    Bruce Cobb (17:07:06):
    Icarus asked:
    Do we know how much of a forcing would be required to trigger an unstoppable transition to a much warmer, ice-free world?

    About 2 billion years from now the sun will have increased in brightness enough to reach that point. Until then, no worries. In about 4 billion years, we are cinder circling a red giant and maybe spiraling in to same.

    There is a bit of a race condition between this and the earth core. Our nuclear fission furnace is running out of fuel. When that happens, the core starts to set up and we lose our magnetic field. Best projections are that the fuel runs out about now, plus or minus a couple of million years. So expect that we get less mag field protecting the planet somewhere in a few million years. It’s going to be a really bad day for life on earth then, as the atmosphere will likely do a “Martian disappearing act” then, much like it did on Mars when that planet ran out of nuclear fuel and it’s core set up. When the plate tectonics stop recycling CO2 from rocks and life sequesters it all, well, it’s going to be a very bad day… And a very cold one.

    But we’ve got a few million years to figure out what to do about it. It takes a long time for the place to cool down inside. The good news is that we probably don’t have to worry about the sun consuming the planet. The bad news is that it will have been dead long before then, and us with it. The really bad news is that if we don’t get off this rock “soon” there may not be enough time to re-evolve sentient life that can do so (presuming we do something stupid like nuclear destruction of our selves).

    So you can take your pick: Frozen desert with little air, like Mars. Wait longer and be burning cinder like Mercury. Get off this rock and preserve the diversity of life that evolved here on space stations and / or terraformed moons elsewhere in the solar system. Personally, I’d prefer “C”…

    But we have plenty of time to discuss it and work out the details.


    You mean, of, course, a “tipping point”…

    Well to be specific I’m referring to long-term positive feedbacks involving ice sheets, vegetation changes, failure of carbon sinks etc. – anything that would amplify the original forcing to the point where a dramatic climate change would ensue even if the original forcing stopped.

    With increased CO2 and increased warmth we get more vegetation and more carbon consumption by plants and algae, not less. With more desertification you get more dust fertilization of the ocean and more algae blooms so more CO2 consumption, not less. With ice sheet reduction you get more plant growth and more CO2 consumption, not less. etc. etc.

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/of-trees-volcanos-and-pond-scum/

    Then there is also that 4th power function on radiation… Puts a lid on warmth.

    So you see, there are “tipping points”, but they are all to the cold side. The warm side has a fairly ‘hard lid’ on warmth. We are presently enjoying that status (being at an unsustainable peak of warmth) but it will not last. Enjoy it while you can.

    Palaeoclimate seems to show a lot of sawtoothiness rather than gentle changes.

    That it does. And if you look at the graphs in this link you will notice that the sawtooth always heads to the cold side from where we are now. You will notice that we are on the unsustainable tip of a sawtooth and that all the risk is to the downside. Looking to the past we see a set of peaks, all about the present warmth, some a smidgeon higher, and all ending in a plunge into the abyss of cold.

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/how-long-is-a-long-temperature-history/

    The real problem is to find a way, any way, to prevent that plunge. I would hope and pray that the “CO2 Greenhouse effect” is real ( I think it is not, but I can hope…) because the alternative is not pretty…

    The good news is that the coming ice age advances about 800 feet a year. We have a few generations to prepare for the ice. (Notice that the snow and ice builds up in a ‘jittery linear’ fashion in the graphs. The next ice sheet advances over 100,000 years or so. Take the Greenland edge, draw a line to the limit of the last advance. Divide the distance by 100,000 years. That’s the rate of advance in that particular direction, more or less.) The bad news is that the cold can arrive much more swiftly than the ice (it not requiring a mass transfer, as the ice does…).

    I don’t expect this to happen in my lifetime, or even in the next generation or three. Though in reality, the LIA may have been the start of the entry. It is slow enough and with enough ‘wobble’ that we might well be in the middle of the start of the decent into the “next” ice age. Our lives are just too short to really notice a 100,000 year movement with 1500 year oscillations and 200 year wobbles and 60 year ocean cycles and 20 year solar cycles and… So we run this way and that with the weather and call it “climate”.

    But let there be no doubt: From here, the direction is down and cold. But with enough cyclical wobbles for folks to get excited about “change” in both directions, and on a regular schedule too…

    Oh, and as the moon drifts away from Earth, we become more unstable to changes of tilt. The ice ages are likely to become worse and the interglacials more extreme. We might even end up tipped over with a pole pointing at the sun 1/2 a year and away 1/2 a year like some other planets. The effect will take many millions of years to become significant, so there is the chance that we might expire from other causes before that, though.

    Frankly, THE most likely event is a major “rock fall” from space, rather like the one that did in the Clovis People in the Younger Dryas as a rock smashed into the ice sheet in North America. Did-in the megafauna of North America too. Those happen every few thousands of years and it’s been a few thousands of years… They tend to cause a “nuclear winter” for various lengths of time, depending on size.

    So if you are looking for something to be worried about, by far the largest and most real risk is that of a nuclear winter from a meteor or asteroid strike. Odd are that a significant one happens inside a couple of hundred years, a catastrophic one every 10,000 or so years, and a horrific evolution reset size event every 60 million or so years. Statistically it has no significance, but we are “due” for each of those scales of event. Tunguska (sp?) was about “one interval” of that size event ago. The dinosaur killer was about ‘one interval’ of that size ago. And we’ve already mentioned that the Clovis People event was about ‘one interval’ of that size ago.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-Earth_object

    A Tunguska event over Paris would leave us with no Paris (nor much in a large chunk of surrounding France). A “Clovis Killer” size would end Europe (and plunge the rest of the world into a minor ice age event, that might well hasten our plunge into the real ice age for the next 100,000 years). We won’t talk about anything larger since there is no “after” to discuss…

    And we are doing substantially nothing about it. It could be dealt with using 1/100 th the money being wasted on AGW.

    And it will happen. Absolute. Tick tick tic…

  58. Well hell’s bells Mr. Hansen: I thought we only had a few months or a few years to stop our CO2 emissions to save the World. I am happy to see that we now have at least a generation to address this issue.

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