According to James Hansen, the American scientist who alerted the world to the greenhouse effect in the 1980s, the world is moving towards a superheated climate not seen in the 1 million years before human existence, because “we are damned fools” for failing to act on warnings about the climate crisis.
Hansen, whose 1988 U.S. Senate testimony is cited as the first high-profile revelation of global warming, warned in a statement with two other scientists that the world was heading towards a “new climate frontier” with higher temperatures than at any time in the last million years, bringing impacts such as stronger storms, heat waves and droughts.
The world has Already warmed by about 1.2C since mass industrialization, resulting in a 20% chance of having the kind of extreme summer temperatures now seen in many parts of the northern hemisphere, up from 1% 50 years ago, Hansen said.
“There’s a lot more in the pipeline unless we reduce the amounts of greenhouse gases,” Hansen, 82, told the Guardian. “These super storms are a taste of my grandchildren’s storms. We are consciously heading into the new reality – we knew it was coming.
Hansen was a NASA climatologist when he warned legislators of increasing global warming and a since participated in demonstrations alongside activists to speak out against the lack of action to reduce global warming emissions in the decades since.
He said the record-breaking heat waves that rocked the WE, Europe, China and elsewhere in recent weeks have heightened “a sense of disappointment that we scientists have not communicated more clearly and elected leaders capable of a smarter response.”
“That means we’re bloody fools,” Hansen said of humanity’s heavy-handed response to the climate crisis. “You have to taste it to believe it.”
This year appears to be the hottest on record globally, with summer already seeing the hottest june and eventually, hottest week never reliably measured. Conversely, 2023 could ultimately be considered as an average or even mild year, with temperatures continuing to rise. “Things will get worse before they get better,” Hansen said.
“That doesn’t mean that extreme heat in any particular location this year will recur and increase every year. Weather fluctuations keep things moving. But the global average temperature will increase and the climate dice will be increasingly loaded, including more extreme events.
Hansen argued in a new research paperwhich has not yet been peer-reviewed, that the rate of global warming is accelerating, even when natural variations, such as current El Niño weather event which periodically increases temperatures, are taken into account. This is due to what he said was an “unprecedented” imbalance in the amount of energy coming to the planet from the sun compared to the energy reflected back from Earth.
While global temperatures are undoubtedly rising due to the burning of fossil fuels, scientists are divided on whether this rate is accelerating. “We don’t see any evidence for what Jim claims,” said Michael Mann, a University of Pennsylvania climatologist, who added that the warming of the climate system had been “remarkably stable.” Others said the idea was plausible, although more data is needed to be certain.
“It may be premature to say that warming is accelerating, but it is not decreasing, that’s for sure. We still have our foot on the accelerator,” said Matthew Huber, a paleoclimatology expert at Purdue University.
Scientists have estimated, through reconstructions based on evidence collected via ice cores, tree rings and sediment deposits, that the current increase in warming has Already brought global temperatures to levels not seen on Earth for about 125,000 years, before the last Ice Age.