Scientists who warn of climate shifts often forecast a model that looks at increases in sea levels over the next number of centuries. But a new study has pegged the peril as occurring much closer to our own lifetime. Within the next 30 to 50 years, the oceans will dramatically rise seven feet, while the loss of heat-regulating currents from melting polar ice caps will result in megastorms never before seen in earth’s modern history.
According to the New York Times on March 22, scientists estimate that by the end of this century, the planet will already be suffering from catastrophic consequences of global warming and climate change – killer storms will ravage the landscape and large parts of the polar ice sheets will disintegrate, raising sea levels and flooding major coastal cities.
The findings were released this week by the European science journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. The research paper is citing a cause-and-effect relationship that is not new. As fossil fuel use increases, heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere will quickly reach a critical point, resulting in an abrupt climate shift that will pour freshwater from melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica into the oceans, raising the seas to perilous levels.
“We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control,” said James E. Hansen, a retired NASA climate scientist who led the study. “That would mean loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities and all their history.”
Still, some of Hansen’s peers are unconvinced. “Some of the claims in this paper are indeed extraordinary,” said Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “They conflict with the mainstream understanding of climate change to the point where the standard of proof is quite high.”
Part of the skepticism may be that Dr. Hansen is not only a researcher, but an activist for climate change. In fact, he has been arrested at rallies and even is party to a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to limit global warming.
Adds the Times: “Despite any reservations they might have about the new paper, virtually all climate scientists agree with Dr. Hansen’s group that society is not moving fast enough to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, posing grave risks. An agreement reached late last year in Paris seeks to cut emissions, but it is not remotely ambitious enough to limit global warming to the degree Dr. Hansen regards as necessary.”
Dr. Hansen does have a track record of being ahead of the curve however. Back in 1988, as director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, Hansen presented to Congress a dire warning regarding the little-understood effect of climate change. He said at the time, according to the Business Insider: “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”
Hansen spoke more about the climate shift study in this YouTube video he uploaded on March 21.