One Scientist Wants You to Know Something Horrifying About the Weather

July 21st 2015

Kyle Jaeger

James Hansen, the scientist credited with raising national attention to global warming in 1988, has some more bad news for us: Our climate is not recovering fast enough.

Hansen, who works as an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute, collaborated with 16 other climate experts on a study that looks at dangerous trends in our atmosphere and oceans. Among other things, the researchers determined that 2-degree Celsius global warming, which many consider the international target needed to contain the environmental impact, is "highly dangerous."

In other words, we have entered into a phase of global warming that has exceeded even Hansen's worst expectations. Two-degree Celsius target goals are no longer enough, and the international community must take action to keep up with the rapid changes in our environment.

The new report, due to be published online later this week in the open-access journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, is said to outline these worst-case scenarios, which generally involve issues linked to global warming such as rapid sea level rise and increased (and intensified) storm activity.

"If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large-scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters," the paper noted, and "if [greenhouse gases] continue to grow, the amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean, including expanded sea ice and [Southern ocean overturning circulation] slowdown likely will continue to grow and facilitate increasing Antarctic mass loss."

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Whereas Hansen and his team believe that dramatic changes in sea level and temperature are imminent—within a time frame of 50 to 200 years, that is—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, long considered the standard bearer for global warming research, has maintained that the end times are farther away. The organization projected a sea level increase of only one meter in about 85 years.

The paper has already attracted its fair share of skeptics from within the scientific community even before its release. However, as the Washington Post reported, "skepticism is probably likely, given not only the nature of scientists in general, but also the significant departures from the view of a consensus body—the IPCC."

Hansen and his colleagues have recommended that the world adopt new and more effective measures of combating global warming. Perhaps most importantly, that includes drastically reducing the world's dependence of nonrenewable resources.