James Hansen Warns of a Brief-Term Climate Shock Bringing two Degrees of Warming by 2050

A group of scientists led by former NASA climate researcher James Hansen, who formally raised the alarm about climate modify to U.S. government leaders in his 1988 testimony to Congress, is functioning on a new study that warns of a attainable quick-term spike of planetary heating two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

In an irony of climate modify, the scientists stated the sudden surge of warming—especially considering that 2010—is driven mostly by steep reduction of climate-cooling sulfate aerosol particles in the previous ten to 20 years, as new regulations restricted emissions from the largest sources, like the burning of coal and heavy ship fuels.

The draft paper has not been peer-reviewed, but Hansen, director of the Climate Science Awareness And Options center at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, posted it publicly on May perhaps 19 on a scientific discussion web-site, once again drawing public consideration to the prospective for a shock of quick-term warming that could devastate worldwide meals production and ecosystems.

Hansen’s prior warning about the prospective for quick-term heating due to emissions reductions was in 2021, when he stated the drop in sulfate aerosol pollution could double the price of worldwide warming in the course of the subsequent 25 years. In his month-to-month climate bulletin he explained that sulfate aerosols, trigger microscopic water droplets in the atmosphere to multiply, which brightens clouds to reflect heat away from the Earth. The decreased quantity of sulfates in the atmosphere enables additional heat from the sun to warm ocean and land surfaces. 

In the discussion draft of the new paper, the authors predict the price of warming will double from the observed .18 degrees Celsius per decade from 1970 to 2010, to at least .27 degrees Celsius per decade considering that 2010.

“Under the present geopolitical strategy to GHG emissions, worldwide warming will probably pierce the 1.5°C ceiling in the 2020s and 2°C just before 2050,” the authors wrote. “Impacts on persons and nature will accelerate as worldwide warming pumps up hydrologic extremes.” The “enormity of the consequences,” they added, calls for attempting to reverse worldwide warming and cool the Earth down to the fairly steady variety of the previous 12,000 years, just before carbon dioxide pollution disrupted the climate.  

The concentrations of climate-cooling sulfate aerosols have decreased most sharply more than oceans in the previous 20 years due to the fact of pollution-cutting guidelines imposed on shipping. And the new warning in Hansen’s paper comes at a time when the typical ocean surface temperature has soared and stayed properly above prior record levels.

That truth is not lost on Leon Simons, a co-author of the draft paper, who lately wrote on Twitter: “North Atlantic is on fire,” and went on to clarify the ocean warming with a graph displaying how the overheated area overlaps with key shipping lanes exactly where aerosol emissions have declined. 

The fast drop of aerosols is rising Earth’s power imbalance so immediately that an acceleration of warming is inevitable, stated Simons, a climate researcher and board member of the Club of Rome, a Switzerland-primarily based nonprofit sustainability believe tank identified for publishing the The Limits to Development report in 1972, as properly as a 50-year followup report final year.

In impact, sulfate aerosol particles shielded the planet’s surface from some of the sun’s heat for decades, and cutting them is removing the shield, major to a fast warmup. Other study displaying that sulfate aerosols have also masked worldwide precipitation increases driven by  greenhouse gases warming the atmosphere.

Like Hansen, Simons stated he’s agreed to not straight go over the paper’s findings. But he stated the publicly posted draft “includes observational proof for the elevated price of warming,” adding that it “seems rather obvious” that the net heating impact of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere “can outcome in two degrees Celsius of warming.

No Consensus on Climate Sensitivity

Not everybody agrees. Warming of two degrees Celsius (three.six Fahrenheit) by 2050 is unlikely, stated climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Center for Science, Sustainability & the Media at the University of Pennsylvania

Mann stated he does not believe the findings in the draft paper will withstand peer critique due to the fact the study does not adequately account for the cooling effects of cutting other quick-lived climate-warming pollutants, which can offset the heating resulting from the reduction of sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere. Black soot, which absorbs heat from the sun, can warm the atmosphere in the quick term, and other exceptionally potent industrial pollutants emitted in tiny quantities have an outsized climate heating impact.

Calculations of these unique effects are incorporated in the most current worldwide climate assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Adjust that serve as the basis for worldwide climate policy talks, he stated. 

The IPCC reports show that the competing effects almost cancel each and every other out, which would make two degrees Celsius warming by 2050 much less probably. But these identical IPCC projections involve massive cuts of methane emissions as a different important to offsetting the spike in warming from the reduction of atmospheric sulfates. But methane emissions are not declining they’ve accelerated sharply the previous 5 years, information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show.

Claiming that present scientific literature supports the thought that warming can be restricted to “well below” two degrees Celsius is “egregious,” Hansen stated, and shows “uncritical acceptance of models and the assumptions that went into them.”

Publicizing a paper at the pre-critique stage is uncommon, and for great motives, like issues about unwarranted claims grabbing headlines and public consideration, although subsequent corrections or modifications generally do not get the identical level of consideration.

Hansen stated the study group will not answer concerns straight about the study till it has been peer reviewed. “If I do an interview just before it is accepted (and published), it appears to give the self-appointed ‘experts’ an excuse to blackball our paper,” he stated. 

But in a May perhaps 25 update on his Columbia University web-site, he responded to some of the initial reactions to the draft study by writing,“There’s no time to get involved in Twitter wars.” 

He emphasized that he thinks the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Adjust is downplaying some of worldwide warming’s most imminent dangers and he elaborated on the “blackball” comment by referring to a peer-reviewed and published 2016 paper that he stated the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Adjust ignored. 

Preserve Environmental Journalism Alive

ICN offers award-winning climate coverage cost-free of charge and marketing. We rely on donations from readers like you to retain going.

Donate Now

That paper identified that the present price of greenhouse gas emissions would lead vital climate-regulating Atlantic Ocean currents to shut down, and sea level to rise quite a few meters inside 50 to 150 years.

“As but, tiny has changed to get us off that path,” he wrote. “You would not know that from the communications of the United Nations COPs (Conferences of the Parties) and their scientific advisory physique, the IPCC.” The IPCC’s modeling strategy is valuable, he stated, but he warned that some of its projections appear to assume that “a miracle will take place,” so these models will need to be checked against the actual planet.

“Our study is focused on actual planet information and comparison with models, with the hope of gaining insights about how the climate program functions and exactly where the actual planet is headed,” he wrote. The “miracle” that limits warming to much less than two degrees Celsius in the most hopeful IPCC scenarios is primarily based on an “assumption of damaging emissions through energy plants that burn biofuels, capturing and sequestering the CO2.” 

Focusing consideration on the paper just before it is reviewed is “mainly to start off the scientific discussion and get input from the broader scientific neighborhood,” Simons added. “Such a broad paper positive aspects from this, as the reviewers may possibly be additional specialized. With Jim [Hansen], there will of course automatically be media consideration, but that is not the purpose. Individuals will need to know about the acceleration of warming.”

If the typical worldwide temperature warms two degrees above pre-industrial instances by 2050, it suggests that temperatures more than land will probably raise double that quantity, by four degrees Celsius, due to the fact land surfaces have much less heat capacity than the oceans, exactly where some of the heat goes deep down and is not right away expressed as a rise of surface temperature.

This year’s IPCC 6th Assessment Report  shows that level of warming quickly increases the odds of huge, widespread droughts that could wipe out meals production in important worldwide crop regions at the identical time, as properly as extreme water shortages and fierce heat waves that would displace millions of persons. The combined physical and social impacts would destabilize some regions and possibly stir up conflicts more than meals and water supplies.

Early Scientific Warnings Can Assist and Hurt

The draft discussion paper posted by Hansen also explores how substantially warming is locked into the program for thousands of years to come by present atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. These lengthy-term consequences are overlooked in climate policy discussions that do not appear beyond 2100, climate scientists Zeke Hausfather and Andrew Dessler wrote on May perhaps 22, in a discussion of the new paper.

“Considering that Jim Hansen’s predictions have generally established appropriate, it is significant that we spend close consideration to what he’s saying,” Hausfather and Dessler wrote. 

From 1981 to 2013, Hansen was director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Research in New York City, a element of the Goddard Space Flight Center. He led efforts to methodically analyze temperature information from thousands of worldwide observations, which showed the clearly emerging worldwide warming fingerprint.

Even just before retiring from NASA, Hansen began participating in climate demonstrations. He was arrested at an oil pipeline protest in 2011, and in front of the White Home in 2013. In 2017 he known as for a wave of climate lawsuits against governments and polluting corporations. Hansen’s granddaughter, Sophie Kivlehan, is a single of 21 youth plaintiffs who has sued the U.S. government in Juliana v. the United States, alleging the government is infringing on their constitutional rights by not acting to cease worldwide warming.

In the discussion draft of the present study, Hansen’s group suggests that most of the lengthy-term “global warming for today’s atmosphere is nonetheless in the pipeline,” adding that present projections for ice sheet melting below today’s atmospheric circumstances are “unrealistically lethargic.” 

But Mann, also a major professional in this field, stated the draft paper does not account for how substantially carbon dioxide the oceans will absorb in the decades ahead. Commenting on the identical subject final year on Twitter, Mann stated that Hansen has “ignored a decade of new science,” and that the incorrect claims about climate sensitivity “won’t survive peer critique.” That is why it is a poor thought to publicize new study just before it is been submitted for professional verification, he added.

The draft paper’s new warnings are aligned with other current research about how the dangers of some climate extremes are underestimated. The climate science canon these days generally contains phrases like “faster than anticipated,” “sooner than expected” and “hotter than expected” when it comes to the decline of worldwide ice, rising temperatures, sea level rise and other impacts.

Even if the dire conclusion of two degrees Celsius of warming is affirmed by peer critique, it is not clear if a single new study paper would have substantially effect on worldwide climate policy, stated Glen Peters, a senior climate researcher with the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO) in Oslo. 

“Policy makers and choice makers do not normally respond to each and every new paper that is published, no matter how reliable the author,” he stated. “They wait for the consensus view from the IPCC published every single five-ten years. Even so, the policy outcome would be substantially the identical. A sharp raise in climate action is required, beyond the level that politicians currently uncover unpalatable.”

With current scientific reports currently highlighting the grave dangers of continued warming, it is not probably that a new paper detailing an more increment of warming would be game-altering, stated Dana Fisher, a sociologist and climate activism researcher at the University of Maryland.

“Sadly, I believe that no level of understanding or scary predictions about warming or climate disruption are going to motivate a shift on climate action,” she stated. “It will definitely raise the quantity of persons in the streets throwing meals and gluing themselves to issues, even though. And there is the caveat that, as we all practical experience additional frequent and extreme climate shocks, additional persons will mobilize and stress their governments to act.”

So far, there’s been quite tiny policy at the scale needed to deal with the difficulty, Simons added.

“The raise in disasters will probably have additional effect on urgency than just about any paper will,” he stated. “ Honestly, I’m each shocked and humbled by how peaceful protesters keep, even when faced with violence themselves.”

And regardless of no matter if any new paper moves the policy needle, it is significant to clear up the uncertainties about no matter if there could be a harmful upward temperature spike in the subsequent two decades, he stated. 

“Humanity is the 1st species capable to … measure and analyze the incoming and outgoing power how the balance is altering and what occurs with the accumulating power,” he stated. “Understanding this is a vital 1st step in order to act successfully. I think that with a additional thorough understanding of our planet, humanity could come to be a effective force to life on Earth,  if we obtain the collective will to do so.”

Bob Berwyn

Reporter, Austria

Bob Berwyn an Austria-primarily based reporter who has covered climate science and international climate policy for additional than a decade. Previously, he reported on the atmosphere, endangered species and public lands for quite a few Colorado newspapers, and also worked as editor and assistant editor at neighborhood newspapers in the Colorado Rockies.

Previous post Improving Your Financial Health: A 10-Step Workout Plan
Next post UTSA alumnus Joaquin Guzman named an All-American Official by sports association | UTSA Today | UTSA