Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Dr. James Hansen - Protest the Oil Sands Pipeline. August 30, 2011
Show live from the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0, co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress, live from Las Vegas, NV.
Thom Hartmann: Dr. James Hansen, one of the leading spokespeople for a world that works, a climate scientist, a scientist at NASA. Dr. Hansen, welcome to the program.
James Hansen: Glad to be on, thank you.
Thom Hartmann: So tell us what happened.
James Hansen: Well, I was with especially religious leaders yesterday, and about 140 of us were arrested in front of the White House after making our statements about the car sands. And the fact that it simply doesn't make sense for the U.S. to deal with its addiction to oil by going after stuff which is even much dirtier.
Thom Hartmann: Right. That being the tar sands.
James Hansen: That being the tar sands, correct.
Thom Hartmann: And you were arrested for this.
James Hansen: Yes.
Thom Hartmann: What, I had a half hour conversation on the air Friday night with Bill McKibben [Videos: Part 1 & Part 2] and he quoted you as saying if this tar sands thing happens, it's game over for the environment. Is that accurate? Is that somewhat hyperbolic or really solid and this is just tar sands and Canada coming to the United States. It has to be one of dozens if not more similar massively fossil fuel intensive projects going on from Australia to China to India and Africa. Are we swatting at flies when there's a huge swarm all over the planet, I mean you know what, I guess you can get the question that's embedded in all those statements.
James Hansen: Yeah, yeah. And I think the answer is yes it's not a hyperbolic statement. It's, it is game over. Let me explain what I mean by that. What we've shown is that with the current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we're already at the dangerous level.
Thom Hartmann: Right.
James Hansen: We've only witnessed about half of the warming due to the carbon that are already in the atmosphere. And that is well quantified because we've now measured the planets energy imbalance. There's more energy coming into the planet than there is heat being radiated from space. And because the different countries around the world in the past ten years have distributed more than a thousand Argo floats around the worlds ocean which measures, has an instrument package that yo-yos down into the ocean to a depth of 2 kilometers and then yo-yos back up. It measures the temperature among other things. And what we see is that the ocean is gaining heat. That's the main reservoir, there's a tremendous thermal inertia of the ocean. So in any case, just let me summarize the science by saying that the planet is out of balance by about 3/4 of a watt per meter squared. That means that there's additional warming in the pipeline.
Thom Hartmann: That's for every square meter of surface of the planet earth? About every square yard more or less, 3/4 of a watt plus out of balance?
James Hansen: Yeah, yeah. And it's what we expect.
Thom Hartmann: That's pretty massive.
James Hansen: We know that because, as you add these gases to the atmosphere, it reduces the heat radiation to space and puts the planet temporarily out of energy balance and it will therefore warm up. And we've witnessed warming of about 8/10 of a degree Celsius, about one and a half degrees Fahrenheit, about two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over land and we're already seeing lots of effects from this. The increased frequency of unusually hot heat waves and droughts that go with that, forest fires that go with that. Increased rainfall because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor so you get more intense rainfall events and greater floods. So 100 year floods occur more often than once a century.
Thom Hartmann: Right.
James Hansen: But the main concern of me is for what will happen in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. There are these tipping points in the climate system. One of them is the stability of ice sheets. When they begin to disintegrate then once it's gone too far it's out of your control and you will get sea level rises of several meters. And we know that that has happened a number of times in the earth's history. We know that from the measurements of the gravity satellite, we know that the ice sheets are beginning to shed mass faster and faster. We don't want to pass the tipping point where we guarantee that there will be sea level rise of several meters because…
Thom Hartmann: Right. Dr. Hanson…
James Hansen: … that would be game over for coastal cities all around the world.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Very well said. Dr. James Hansen, you're doing such great work, sir. You are a genuine hero. Thank you so much for being with us.
James Hansen: Okay.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.