'We have only four years left to act on climate change - Ameri...
Jim Hansen is the 'grandfather of climate change' and one of the world's leading climatologists. In this rare interview in New York, he explains why President Obama's administration is the last chance to avoid flooded cities, species extinction and climate catastrophe.
Thus plans to include carbon trading schemes in talks about future climate agreements were a desperate error, he said. “It’s just greenwash. I would rather the forthcoming Copenhagen climate talks fail than we agree to a bad deal,” Hansen said.
Only a carbon tax, agreed by the west and then imposed on the rest of the world through political pressure and trade tariffs, would succeed in the now-desperate task of stopping the rise of emissions, he argued. This tax would be imposed on oil corporations and gas companies and would specifically raise the prices of fuels across the globe, making their use less attractive. In addition, the mining of coal - by far the worst emitter of carbon dioxide - would be phased out entirely along with coal-burning power plants which he called factories of death.
BY Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Sunday 18 January 2009
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The climate in figures
• The current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 385 parts per million. This compares with a figure of some 315ppm around 1960.
• Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that can persist for hundreds of years in the atmosphere, absorbing infrared radiation and heating the atmosphere.
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's last report states that 11 of the 12 years between 1995-2006 rank among the 12 warmest years on record since 1850.
• According to Jim Hansen, the nation responsible for putting the largest amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is Britain, on a per capita basis - because the Industrial Revolution started here. China is now the largest annual emitter of carbon dioxide .
• Most predictions suggest that global temperatures will rise by 2C to 4C over the century.
• The IPCC estimates that rising temperatures will melt ice and cause ocean water to heat up and increase in volume. This will produce a sea-level rise of between 18 and 59 centimetres. However, some predict a far faster rate of around one to two metres.
• Inundations of one or two metres would make the Nile Delta and Bangladesh uninhabitable, along with much of south-east England, Holland and the east coast of the United States.