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Sunday, April 29, 2012

A prophet is not without honor but in his own land

I had the privilege to interview Dr. James Hansen for fifty minutes a little while ago. The collapse of ice sheets was his greatest concern if we did not take aggressive action now.
The Arctic ice discussed in that story is not the same, but if we're crossing tipping point for loss of sea ice, how much more likely is it that we are at or near to a similar tipping point for Greenland?

One of the most terrifying parts of my interview was Dr. Hansen reminding me of something that I was completely overlooking but which should be front and center in everyone's thinking:  that we're only seeing about half the annual CO2 output showing up in the atmosphere because so much is being absorbed in the oceans -- not only is that making an enormous change in the oceanic acidity (eating away at the very base of the global food chain) but it means that there is a gigantic reservoir of CO2 being stored away that will immediately act to _maintain_ atmospheric CO2 levels even when we are forced, whether by our consciences or by global economic collapse, to stop pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere.

In other words, not only have we loaded the dice against ourselves in terms of climate outcomes, but we've put ourselves into a straightjacket that's tied to the craps table, so we can't even walk away from the game, even if we were to suddenly wise up.  If all human CO2 emissions stopped tomorrow, we're still not going to see CO2 levels drop very fast at all.

Here's the talk much like the one he gave at Willamette:

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