NASA scientist James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has sparked a heated debate, suggesting that the issue of climate change is akin to slavery.
Speaking to The Guardian, Mr. Hansen, one of the foremost researchers on the subject of global warming, says that the U.S. and other nations around the world should consider the consequences of climate change.
“Climate change is a “great moral issue” akin to slavery, said the NASA scientist.
Mr. Hansen, who has faced criticism from opponents, called on members of Congress to consider imposing a carbon tax, warning that delays in passage of a climate bill could result in a climate beyond the control of humans.
“The situation we’re creating for young people and future generations is that we’re handing them a climate system which is potentially out of their control,” he said. “We’re in an emergency: you can see what’s on the horizon over the next few decades with the effects it will have on ecosystems, sea level and species extinction.”
The NASA scientists noted that recent studies conducted by NASA find that the climate is quickly approaching a point of no return. Mr. Hansen noted that current levels of CO2 could remain in the atmosphere long after changes have been implemented.
“We understand the carbon cycle: the CO2 we put in the air will stay in surface reservoirs and won’t go back into the solid earth for millennia. What the Earth’s history tells us is that there’s a limit on how much we can put in the air without guaranteeing disastrous consequences for future generations. We cannot pretend that we did not know,” said the NASA scientist.
Mr. Hansen said his proposal for a global carbon tax was based on the latest analysis of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and their impact on global temperatures and weather patterns. He has co-authored a scientific paper with 17 other experts, including climate scientists, biologists and economists, which calls for an immediate 6% annual cut in CO2 emissions, and a substantial growth in global forest cover, to avoid catastrophic climate change by the end of the century.
Mr. Hansen is more deeply immersed in the issue of climate change than ever. The NASA climate scientists is still writing scientific papers — a new one, titled “Public Perception of Climate Change and the New Climate Dice,” which argues that the notable recent increase in climate extremes is no accident, has been submitted to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mr. Hansen’s proposal comes just months after he was arrested outside of the White House for protesting a key oil pipeline project. Mr. Hansen, along with 141 other individuals, were arrested on August 29 at a sit-in demonstration at the White House. The group called on President Obama to block construction the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, a project that Republican members of Congress say is vital to creating jobs and reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.