Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fossil Fuels are making the Planet Uninhabitable

We risk an unprecedented global catastrophe if we continue to burn the earth's remaining fossil fuel resources. According to research conducted by former NASA climate scientist James Hansen and co-authors, our current trajectory of fossil fuel exploitation puts us on track to create a "practically uninhabitable planet" by triggering a "low-end runaway greenhouse effect."

These researchers looked at carbon from fossil fuels including tar sands and shale gas and came to the conclusion that if we extract and burn as little as one third of these reserves, we could reach carbon levels as high as 16 times the atmospheric concentrations that existed in 1950.

According to this research we are on the verge of passing irreversible tipping points from which we will not be able to recover. This view is corroborated by others who have shown that unless we reign in our emissions in the next few years it will be too late to keep temperatures below the upper limit of 2C.

The paper was published in July by Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A it focuses on empirical data about correlations between temperature, sea level and CO2 going back up to 66 million years.

If we continue with business as usual we will:

1. Eliminate grain production in almost all agricultural regions in the world
2. Diminish the stratospheric ozone layer
3. Make much of the planet uninhabitable by humans

Hansen blames governments for allowing fossil fuel companies to continue to extract hydrocarbons.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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