The Latest Science on Global Warming

Eric Zuesse

Because of the prejudiced coverage of the global warming issue that’s common in much of the press, I have decided to present highlights from one of the most comprehensive articles that’s now being considered by one of the world’s top scientific journals on the topic: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. This is the latest scientific knowledge on the subject.

The paper is titled: “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous,” by J. Hansen et al. (You can read it there.)

Here is the article’s full team of authors: J. Hansen, M. Sato, P. Hearty, R. Ruedy, M. Kelley, V. Masson-Delmotte, G. Russell, G. Tselioudis, J. Cao, E. Rignot, I. Velicogna, E. Kandiano, K. von Schuckmann, P. Kharecha, A. N. Legrande, M. Bauer, and K.-W. Lo

Here are some highlights (the most easily comprehensible statements) from this research article:


Global CO2 emissions continue to increase as fossil fuels remain the primary energy source. The argument is made that it is economically and morally responsible to continue fossil fuel use for the sake of raising living standards, with expectation that humanity can adapt to climate change and find ways to minimize effects via advanced technologies. We suggest that this viewpoint fails to appreciate the nature of the threat posed by ice sheet instability and sea level rise. If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters. The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable. We suggest that a strategic approach relying on adaptation to such consequences is unacceptable to most of humanity, so it is important to understand this threat as soon as possible.

We examine events late in the last interglacial period warmer than today. …

Our finding of global cooling from ice melt calls into question whether global temperature is the most fundamental metric for global climate in the 21st century. The first order requirement to stabilize climate is to remove Earth’s energy imbalance, which is now about +0.6Wm-2 [Watts per square meter] more energy coming in than going out. If other forcings are unchanged, removing this imbalance requires reducing atmospheric CO2 from 400 to 350 ppm (Hansen et al., 2008, 2013a). …

Humanity faces near certainty of eventual sea level rise of at least Eemian proportions, 5–9m [16-30 feet], if fossil fuel emissions continue on a business-as-usual course, e.g., IPCC scenario A1B that has CO2 700 ppm in 2100 (Fig. S21). It is unlikely that coastal cities or low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, European lowlands, and large portions of the United States eastern coast and northeast China plains (Fig. S22) could be protected against such large sea level rise. Rapid large sea level rise may begin sooner than generally assumed. …

We conclude that the 2 C [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] global warming “guardrail”, armed in the Copenhagen Accord (2009), does not provide safety, as such warming would likely yield sea level rise of several meters along with numerous other severely disruptive consequences for human society and ecosystems. …

The message that the climate science delivers to policymakers, instead of defining a safe “guardrail”, is that fossil fuel CO2 emissions must be reduced as rapidly as practical [instead of being allowed to rise at all]. Hansen et al. (2013a) conclude that this implies a need for a rising carbon fee or tax [immediately], an approach that has the potential to be near-global, as opposed to national caps or goals for emission reductions. Although a carbon fee is the sine qua non for phasing out emissions [they’re rejecting cap-and-trade], the urgency of slowing emissions also implies other needs including widespread technical cooperation in clean energy technologies (Hansen et al., 2013a).


Here is the opening of a straightforward referee’s review of this paper; it’s by geophysicist D. Archer of the University of Chicago, and dated 27 July 2015: “This is another Hansen masterwork of scholarly synthesis, modeling virtuosity, and insight, with profound implications.” Dr. Archer’s closing sentence is: “I expect this paper will be widely read, but it will make its readers work for it.”


To simplify what the article itself says: Previous estimates of the coastal cities that will be flooded out of existence have been overly optimistic. The situation will likely be worse than has been projected. But measures can be taken that will probably succeed at preventing the outcome from being even worse than that.


What the paper does not cover: This paper does not deal with desertification and increased forest fires and increased deforestation, and with the destruction of (CO2-reducing) trees that will result from that spreading desertification; nor does it deal with refugees surging away from the equator, nor species-extinctions; it doesn’t deal with inland consequences of the global-warming problem. Nor does it deal with marine extinctions resulting from the increasingly acidic oceans. However, the policy-recommendations would reduce those issues, too, if carried out.

Bottom line: While the world dilly-dallies, so that fossil-fuels companies can continue to attract investors for discovering yet more oil, coal and gas (all of which new discoveries will be unburnable — a total waste, because this planet won’t tolerate even the burning of all of the oil, gas, and coal, that’s already been discovered and is now in those companies’ undeveloped reserves), the climatological findings become increasingly pessimistic. In other words: the consensus of climatologists is even bleaker now than it has been. This can be said of the recent findings, without even getting into predictions as to what the precise consequences of it will be.

This is simply the bleak current reality, which might be sinking in too slowly to avert runaway global warming (for example America’s President still obliviously encourages more oil and gas exploration in the arctic), but which nonetheless seems to be sinking in, despite all the sheer corruption, which could end up having terminated life on this planet, as a result of the corruption merely to-date, even if that corruption were to stop immediately and the value of undeveloped fossil-fuel reserves were to plunge immediately to zero, thus forcing governments fully to cost-in fossil-fuels’ harms.

In a separate news report, the head of the present research team writes on behalf of children who are suing the U.S. Government for its being, by its actions, inactions, and corruption, a curse to all their futures. James Hansen says there:

Sensible means exist to rapidly phase down CO2 emissions, to wit, a rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies with funds distributed to the public. Instead, our President proposes ineffectual actions, demonstrably short of what is needed, and persists in approving fossil fuel projects that will slam shut the narrowing window of opportunity to ensure a hospitable climate system. I aim to testify on behalf of young people. Their future hangs in the balance.

When scientists are compelled by circumstances, to recognize that the world is close to, if not already, terminally corrupt, their final resort is to become, themselves, activists, on behalf of future generations, whom our generation is murdering. Perhaps they’re voices in the wilderness. But now they are starting to shout. It’s their last hope. It’s also the last hope of future generations (if there still is, realistically, any hope at all, remaining).


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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