Waterfront property in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands is advertised in units of "no-", "low-", "medium-", and "high-bank". Whenever I dream about a place to watch the sunset from, and to launch my kayak, some sort of beach usually plays a staring role. But James Hansen and his colleagues say anybody with no- to medium-bank waterfront property could be in trouble fairly soon.
In a paper just published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, and five eminent colleagues bluntly suggest: "...Civilization developed, and constructed extensive infrastructure, during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end."
Although the paper carries the rather prosaic title, “Climate change and trace gases”, The Independent leads off its coverage with, "The Earth today stands in imminent peril". It isn't so surprising that The Independent would start slinging end-of-the-world rhetoric around at the drop of
a hat an iceberg, but in this case (in this case!) I think they are actually getting the story right.
Relying primarily on data, rather than upon climate models as does the IPCC, Hansen, et al., draw very different conclusions about what is happening at the poles of the planet than the recent international consensus report. As other coverage has noted, the Hansen paper looks closely at what is happening as ice coverage is replaced by water, thereby dramatically lowering the albedo of the earth's surface, concomitantly increasing the amount of solar radiation absorbed at the surface of the planet.
GreenCarCongress notes that:
The authors explicitly disagree with the conclusions of the IPCC, which forsees little or no contribution to 21st century sea-level rise from Greenland and Antarctica. The paper’s authors argue that the IPCC analysis does not account well for the nonlinear physics of wet ice sheet disintegration, ice streams and eroding ice shelves, and point out that the IPCC conclusions are not consistent with the palaeoclimate evidence.
There is significant melting at the poles an on Greenland, and ignoring these phenomena just doesn't seem very smart. The paper, in short, argues that we must rapidly move beyond even just limiting carbon emissions to agressively sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. The best way I can see to do that is with biology.