Symphony of Science – Our Biggest Challenge

A musical investigation into the causes and effects of global climate change and our opportunities to use science to offset it. Featuring Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov. “Our Biggest Challenge” is the 16th episode of the Symphony of Science series by melodysheep. 

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The Crowd vs. Tarsands Mining in Canada

Beaver Lake Cree Nation is challenging the governments of Canada and Alberta for breaking their treaty promises by allowing 19,000 permits for mineral developments (mostly tar sands mining) on their territory. For more information, check here.

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Canada: Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act Upheld in Ontario Court of Appeal

11 July 2019: a short update on climate legislation in Canada

This recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision has the potential to create definitive clarity in the difficult subject of proper legislation and climate change. The Court found the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act “constitutional” and within Parliament’s jurisdiction to legislate, i.e. to impose charges regulatory in nature, which are connected to the Act — and are not taxes.

The case itself deals with the validity of carbon pricing. The short background is that the Canadian federal government implemented carbon pricing and the Ontario provincial government appealed the decision saying that such a “carbon tax” infringed on provincial rights. They were overruled, with the Court of Appeal noting that climate change and therefore Greenhouse Gas (GHG) regulation is an issue of national concern.

This is one of the first serious discussion in any Canadian court (there was an earlier decision in Saskatchewan on the same issue which was not as well written) about climate change and the constitution, one that will inevitably go to the Supreme Court of Canada this or next year.

The first part of the decision (p. 3 onwards) does an excellent job of giving a background on GHGs and Climate Change and recognizes that combating climate change is a collective effort.

It is written in plain language and rather succinctly.

Having a decision like this signals that in future cases, Canadian courts hopefully will not have to grapple with the first hurdle of addressing climate change and the science behind it.

Vox: Restoring forests may be one of our most powerful weapons in fighting climate change

Adding 2.2 billion acres of tree cover would capture two-thirds of man-made carbon emissions, a new study found.

10 July 2019; Originally published by the digital website, author Umair Irfan  and updated Jul 5, 2019, 12:04pm EDT; re-published under the Creative Commons license.

Allowing the earth’s forests to recover could soak up a significant amount of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research. 

The worldwide assessment of current and potential forestation using satellite imagery appeared Thursday in the journal Science. It estimates that letting saplings regrow on land where forests have been cleared would increase global forested area by one-third and remove 205 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. That’s two-thirds of the roughly 300 billion metric tons of carbon humans have put up there since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. 

“The point is that [reforestation is] so much more vastly powerful than anyone ever expected,” said Thomas Crowther, a professor of environmental systems science at ETH Zurich and a co-author of the paper. “By far, it’s the top climate change solution in terms of carbon storage potential.”

Some climate scientists who were not involved with the study disagree with its calculations and are warning against its “silver bullet” message. Still, supporting natural systems that can soak up carbon is widely accepted as a major component of any climate change mitigation strategy — in addition to deploying clean energy, switching to electric vehicles, and curbing consumption overall. 

The challenges of such a massive reforestation effort are immense, however: Deforestation is still rampant and is accelerating in some parts of the world. Rather than building up forests as a resource to offset greenhouse gas emissions, we’re currently losing them, and emitting more carbon in the process. 

Restoring forests like the Amazon rainforest has the potential to offset huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research. Credit: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images

If the goal is to fight climate change, countries have to reverse course on how they use forests. Another paper out this week in Science Advances offers clear advice on where to focus: places where forest restoration would be most viable and beneficial. But as average temperatures keep climbing, forests may lose their effectiveness in soaking up emissions, so time is running out. 

There’s a huge potential for forest restoration, but we’re still moving in the wrong direction

Let’s take a moment to recall why plants are so critical to the global carbon cycle.

All plants use sunlight, water, soil nutrients, and carbon dioxide to generate energy and to grow. These plants then die and decay. This returns some of the carbon back to the sky and leaves some carbon in the ground. Over time, this leads to a net reduction of carbon in the atmosphere. Plants also move moisture into the air and release aerosols that can contribute to precipitation.

So plants in general and trees in particular play important roles in regulating weather and the climate around the world. 

Humans have disrupted many of these patterns. Since the dawn of civilization, humans have cut down 46 percent of all trees. Just since 1990, the world has lost 1.3 million square kilometers of forested area. The situation is even more dire in the tropics, where less than half of forests remain standing today. 

The modern world’s insatiable appetite for wood, land, agriculture, and mineral extraction continues to drive deforestation. In the Amazon rainforest, one soccer field-size area is clear-cut every minute. 

This chemically deforested area of the Amazon jungle was caused by illegal mining activities in the river basin of the Madre de Dios region in southeast Peru. Illegal mining has destroyed more than 11,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest.
This chemically deforested area of the Amazon jungle was caused by illegal mining activities in the river basin of the Madre de Dios region in southeast Peru. Illegal mining has destroyed more than 11,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest. 

At the same time, we’re pumping a record volume of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — 2.6 million pounds per second — from myriad sources, warming the planet as a whole. While some forests may benefit from more carbon dioxide in the air, others dry out, increasing risks of wildfires. Higher temperatures can also change rainfall patterns, leaving some trees vulnerable to drought or pests like bark beetles. In other words, climate change is a mixed bag for forests. 

The world’s forests have the potential to be carbon-sucking machines

It’s important to remember that forests are not just trees. They are whole self-regulating ecosystems, from the soil bacteria that fix nitrogen to fertilize roots to the rodents and birds that spread seeds to the fungi that rot away carcasses and break down tree trunks. 

All these organisms working together allow forests to push moisture into the air and pull carbon into the ground. Nonetheless, trees are a useful proxy for the work that forests do, particularly with respect to climate change. 

Trees are usually 50 percent carbon by weight, and the vast majority of that comes from carbon dioxide absorbed from the air. A silver maple sapling, for example, would sequester 400 pounds of carbon dioxide over 25 years. That absorption can change based on the species of tree, its size, its age, its location, the soil it’s growing in, and the climate around it. Multiply that by the millions of trees across the world’s woodlands and you can get a sense of just how hard forests are working to keep our greenhouse gases in check. 

Forests may also have other effects that can offset some of their carbon absorption. Dark leaves on trees can cause local temperatures to rise. Forests also emit aerosols, some of which have heat-trapping impacts, so reforestation does not necessarily lead to a straightforward reduction in global warming.

But Crowther and his colleagues also wanted to figure out how much carbon-sucking potential we’ve lost due to deforestation and how much we could get back by allowing forests spring back up — and planting them — in the places they once were.

There is a distinction here between restoration, also known as reforestation, and afforestation. The latter refers to planting new trees where there were none before. The former refers to bringing trees back to areas that were previously forested, whether that’s through planting trees or allowing the woodlands to regrow on their own. 

Crowther and his colleagues used global satellite images to assess tree canopies, figuring out where forests are and where they could reemerge. They found that there are 2.2 billion acres, or 0.9 billion hectares, worth of forest restoration potential. That’s an area almost as big as the United States. Crowther hinted at these findings earlier this year and noted that this would amount to growing 1.2 trillion new trees across the planet.

A map of the potential for forest restoration around the world.
A map of the potential for forest restoration around the world. 

From there, the scientists calculated the carbon removal potential of the newly restored forests. They concluded that the new forested areas would soak up an astounding two-thirds of humanity’s emissions in the atmosphere since the 19th century. 

However, Laura Duncanson, an assistant professor and a forest researcher at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the study, said this estimate is simplistic and doesn’t take into account much of the regional variation that can influence a forest’s capacity to absorb carbon. “I would take that as a very broad brush, back-of-the-envelope-type potential carbon sink [calculation],” she said. “It’s highlighting the potential of forests, but there’s so much more research to do.”

Other researchers, writing in The Conversation, also suggested that Crowther’s carbon storage estimate is too high, and ignores the amount of carbon already in the soil and the fact that forests can take centuries to mature. The researchers, University College London professors Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis, noted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that restored forests could capture 57 billion metric tons of carbon by the end of the century, just one-sixth of the carbon in the atmosphere. 

And still others call it flat-out wrong: 

Forests are facing intense competition from industry and agriculture. That’s why researchers are so keen to show their services to humanity. 

Another study out this week tries to offer more specific guidance on where we should be focusing reforestation efforts. 

Robin Chazdon, a forest ecologist and an emeritus professor at the University of Connecticut, wanted to figure out which restored forests would deliver the most net benefits to humanity. Beyond mitigating climate change, trees help purify water, clean air, and provide homes to wildlife, so there’s a lot to take into account.

In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, Chazdon and her collaborators came up with a scoring system for the world’s forests to figure out where restoration would yield the greatest benefits. 

They found that tropical rainforests — in countries like Brazil, Indonesia, India, Colombia, and Madagascar — in particular stood out. That’s because these regions are home to a huge amount of biodiversity and play a major role in the planet’s air and water cycle. Without these forests, these regions would see big changes in rainfall patterns, reductions in air quality, and the loss of some of the most unique species in the world. 

Chazdon and her team then identified restoration hot spots, regions that scored in the top 10 percent in their evaluation. Put together, these hot spots span an area totaling 101 million hectares, about the size of Spain and Sweden put together, scattered around the world. What it shows, according to Chazdon, is that every part of the world has regions that would yield huge dividends from reforestation. 

Most of the highest areas with the highest scores for restoration potential are in tropical rainforests.
Most of the highest areas with the highest scores for restoration potential are in tropical rainforests.

“Our sense is that these really good bets for restoration are found all over the world and many countries can participate in these activities,” Chazdon said. “We did find some concentrations of these highest scores were distributed all over the tropics.” 

In particular, the highest average scores were in African countries like Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. “These countries, even though they might not have really large areas of tropical rainforest, the areas that they do have are very important restoration opportunities,” she said. 

However, many of these hot spots are already being used in other ways, like for farming and livestock grazing. Local demand for materials, land, and agriculture is often why these forests were cleared in the first place. That means a restoration program in these regions has to show that it delivers benefits that exceed the current uses of the land. 

Looking at the carbon sequestration potential alone may not be enough to make that case, particularly since most countries don’t have a mechanism that rewards taking in carbon dioxide emissions. 

Forests’ other valuable functions, like purifying water, mitigating air pollution, and drawing tourists, also help make a strong policy case for restoring forests while creating pressure to deter further deforestation.

But Chazdon noted that it’s hard to attach a price tag to every benefit we get from restoring forests, like increasing habitats for endangered species. A purely monetary calculation can backfire if the value of cutting down the forest suddenly increases. And many people who live on cleared forests subsist on their farming, so they need to be compensated and given alternative livelihoods if that land is going to be repurposed. So the biggest hurdle may be coming up with an economic system that benefits the environment while protecting the most vulnerable.

“To really make this work economically kind of requires a frameshift in the way we generate economies,” Chazdon said. “The business as usual approach is what got us into this problem, so to get out, it is going to require some innovative mechanisms.” 

We need to prioritize forest restoration as a means to fight climate change, but we may be running out of time to do it

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned last year that the world may have as little as 12 years left to limit warming this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Keeping global emissions in line with that goal demands a full-court press across all sectors of society, from changing how we produce food to generating all of our power from clean sources. 

But climate change isn’t simply a function of how much greenhouse gases we emit; it depends on how we damage the things that take up carbon. That’s why restoring forests stands to be a massive global opportunity to combat warming. The IPCC is now planning to release a special report this year focusing on land use, which will include forest management. 

Greenpeace environmental activists take part during Save the Amazon in Brazil demonstration in front of the Brazilian embassy on April 24, 2019 in The Hague,Netherlands
Greenpeace environmental activists take part during Save the Amazon in Brazil demonstration in front of the Brazilian Embassy on April 24, 2019, in the Hague, Netherlands.

Climate change in turn is starting to affect forests and their ability to store carbon. Crowther noted that warming is making some of the most carbon-absorbing forest areas less hospitable to their native species. Climate change-exacerbated weather extremes like torrential downpours can also damage forests. That means restoration efforts will have more climate benefits the sooner they are implemented and yield diminishing returns over time.

Duncanson, however, said that it’s not clear what direction carbon absorption will go under climate change. While some regions may become less hospitable to trees, others may benefit from increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so extrapolating forest behavior from the present into the future may not make sense. 

“We have a lot more certainty with how forests will respond to current growing conditions than in the future,” Duncanson said. “They might be more robust than we think. They might be even better carbon sinkers in the future. We don’t know.”

Also, not every bit of land that can be reforested will be because there are other constraints. Even if a government were inclined to restore a forest, there is a finite amount of money, resources, and political capital to do so. So despite the theoretical potential of countering two-thirds of human-made emissions, it will be breathtakingly hard.

Duncanson said that Chazdon’s and Crowther’s papers both stand out for getting specific in identifying regions where trees could regrow. “It’s nice to see that we have gone to the point of actually having maps of areas to restore forests,” she said. 

She is working on a project, known as the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI), that uses LIDAR aboard the International Space Station to create a three-dimensional map of the world’s forests. From there, researchers hope to get a far more accurate estimate of how trees take in carbon dioxide and what that means for the global climate. “I think that will be a nice extension of this work,” Duncanson said. 

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misstated the area with forest restoration potential. It is 2.2 billion acres.

Open Letter to the General Public and Young People of the United Kingdom

Published 26 April 2018

Last week, to be precise, 18 April 2019, saw the release of David Attenborough’s program, entitled ‘Climate Change – The Facts’. It screened prime-time on the BBC channel and concerned the state of our Earth. Additionally, this documentary features the work of the ex-NASA scientist, Dr. James Hansen.

On 19 April 2019, Dr. Hansen sent to Tim Crosland of Plan B, a British nonprofit, a letter addressed to “the General Public of the United Kingdom Including, Especially, British Young People” for distribution and publication to and by all people.

Because we at Plan B are not quite sure how to deliver it to the general public, we would like to start by sharing it with you and to ask you, if you can, to send it on to 5 other people, and ask them to do the same.
Here is the link to the letter to share.

The letter itself is published in full below by The Crowd Versus team.

Thank you for your help.

Tim Crosland
Director, PlanB
Plan B links mobilisation and litigation to hold power to account for #ClimateBreakdown

Twitter: @PlanB_earthFacebook: @ThereIsAPlanBPlan B is a Charitable Incorporated OrganisationRegistered Charity Number 1167953

Open Letter to the General Public of the United Kingdom, including and especially, British Young People

Author: Dr. James E. Hansen, Director

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Earth Institute, Columbia University 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 401-O New York, NY 10115

To the General Public of the United Kingdom Including, Especially, British Young People (in care of Plan B Earth, 62 Sutherland Square, London SE17 3EL, UK)

I write, too, in recognition that citizens throughout the U.K., led increasingly by the young – those who stand to lose most – now are rising to demand that national leaders develop and adhere to a viable path away from calamitous global warming, including all the disruption to civilization and nature that is, of necessity, at issue.

For over four decades I have sought, in several ways, to call attention to the enveloping crisis, and to suggest straightforward solutions. Those ways range from scientific research to public writing and speaking, from testimony before Congress and in front of numerous courts of law, and to public protest including, at times, highly respectful acts of non-violent civil disobedience – on occasion leading even to my arrest.

It is not for me to determine what is the best course of action for any one of you. I point out here only that every major personal choice of necessity must, or at least should, be preceded by a personal assessment of available resources, opportunities, tradeoffs, and risk.

In particular I urge every young person to consider the full range of likely consequences before undertaking any major act of civil protest. And if you elect to proceed, I urge you to carry yourself always with dignity – that by your example you should serve as a light in this dark time.

That said, I wish also to counsel every parent, and every grandparent. I urge you in particular to take a stand, so as to not let the full burden of responsibility befall our children. Arm yourself with information of the highest quality, think for yourself, and then exercise your full intellectual and moral capacity to help your nation and our planet survive.

I have no doubt that the era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close. But questions remain as to the speed of the coming transition and, in direct consequence of that speed, the nature of what will be left in its wake. I cannot answer, in particular, whether our civilization will survive in any recognizable form the assault on nature and the human dislocation attending loss of our planet’s great coastal cities that we of necessity will confront with continued unarrested climate change. Towards that end, then, I offer the following specific points, indicating source material that is readily available for readers wishing to pursue a deeper understanding:

1. The international scientific consensus acknowledges that global climate change from persistent high fossil fuel emissions is now well into the danger zone. (Footnote 1)

Content Footnote 1: See, e.g., IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), 2014: Synthesis Report, Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. See also IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, et al. (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, at

Direct corollaries of that observation, in my view, include most importantly that CO2emissions from all major sources must be reduced with all deliberate speed, and also that excess atmospheric CO2 must be drawn-down to the extent feasible so as restore a relatively stable climate system. (Footnote 2)

Content Footnote 2: The harsh reality, however, is that there are significant physical and practical limits to the employment and financing of so-called negative emissions options (including, afforestation, agricultural and soil improvements, and technological air capture of CO2, so that while drawdown of atmospheric CO2 may play a useful role, it most assuredly cannot fully compensate for continued inadequate GHG emissions mitigation. See, e.g., Nature, Why current negative-emissions strategies remain ‘magical thinking’ (February 2018) at

2. Our collective failure to timely secure those corollaries may soon press the climate system past tipping points from which there may be no reasonable prospect of return. Absent strong, binding, transparent, sustainable and replicable incentives and rules that ensure such phasedown and drawdown, every expansion of infrastructure geared to the production or utilization of additional fossil fuel renders our present climate crisis even less tractable. Major new fossil fuel commitments function also to transform our inadequate-to-date GHG reduction aspirations — including those that obtain now in the UK — into a mere mirage.

3. I incorporate by reference into this statement three peer-reviewed studies of which I am the principal co-author. They are Assessing ‘‘Dangerous Climate Change’’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLOS ONE (2013); Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2°C global warming could be dangerous, Atmos. Chem. Phys. (2016); and Exhibit 4,Young people’s burden: requirement of negative CO2 emissions, Earth Syst. Dynam. (2017). These studies – all freely available on the internet (Footnote 3) – support and elaborate on my opinions here.

Content Footnote 3: See “Dangerous Climate Change” at;
“Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms”at 3761-2016.pdf and Young people’s burden at 2017.pdf.

4. Atmospheric CO2 has now reached 409 ppm, (Footnote 4) over 40 percent more than pre- industrial levels, and the resulting planetary energy imbalance has raised the global surface temperature > 1oC above the preindustrial period. Additional warming is certain in the short-term, even if fossil fuel emissions decline, but the period of continued warming will depend on additional fossil fuel exploitation.

Content Footnote 4: Based on Mauna Loa CO2 annual mean data reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. See

5. Fossil fuel emissions are responsible for most of the increase in atmospheric CO2, and increasing CO2, in turn, is the main cause of Earth’s energy imbalance and planetary warming. Accordingly, human decision-making and action are now in control of our planet’s thermostat.

6. The U.K. government has long permitted, subsidized, allowed, and otherwise encouraged fossil fuel exploitation, processing, transport, and consumption – with little or no control on ensuing emissions of CO2 and other GHG emissions.

7. My own government, major components of which are now in thrall to climate denialism and associated pseudo-scientific canards, is doubling down on that pattern and acting to increase fossil fuel exploitation and associated emissions.

8. But is also true that fossil fuel projects and associated emissions were at a grossly unsustainable level during previous U.S. Administrations – even those that recognized the reality of global warming. This means that recognizing the truth of the matter is but step one. In my view, it is critically important – in part to set a good example for the time when Washington D.C. will recognize reality — that traditionally-allied nations do more than talk a good game. Your government should take action to rapidly move Britain off its present dependency on fossil fuels and towards increasing, then increasingly complete, utilization of non- carbon sources of energy.

9. In Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change,” my co-authors and I described the practical impacts of continued global warming. If ice sheets are allowed to become unstable, shorelines will be in perpetual retreat for centuries, a consequence of the slow response time of ocean temperature and ice sheet dynamics. Economic and social implications will be devastating. Because more than half of the largest cities in the world are located on coastlines and the population of coastal regions continues to grow rapidly, the number of refugees likely would eclipse anything experienced in history, with associated impacts on human health and the environment.

10. Rapid shifting of climate zones, already well underway, will be a major contributor to species extinction if global warming continues. Coral reefs, the “rainforests of the ocean,” harboring millions of species, are threatened by the combination of a warming ocean, ocean acidification, rising sea level, and other human-caused stresses. The subtropics in summer, and the tropics in all seasons, will become dangerously hot. Species across the globe will face habitat loss and increased disease, starvation and drought. The patent risk to emblematic species increasingly is widely reported. (Footnote 5)

Content Footnote 5: See, e.g., David Dobbs, Climate Change Enters Its Blood-Sucking, The Atlantic (Feb. 19, 2019) at moose/583189/?fbclid=IwAR2BLVnOrUplN20TMO_ Z7ALUYSFNPXCNW9-3kSPZoziBQ59RZleGOuMJVzY .

11. In Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change,” we urged rapid emissions reductions (annual exponential reduction of 6% commencing in 2013) with drawdown of excess atmospheric CO2 of approximately 100 GtC (the maximum thought achievable through improvements in forestry and agriculture) leading to a reduction in atmospheric CO2 to < 350 ppm by the year 2100.

12. The actions described (rapid phase down of CO2 emissions and increased carbon storage in the soil and biosphere) were deemed minimally necessary to restore Earth’s energy balance, preserve the planet’s climate system, and avert irretrievable damage to human and natural systems – including agriculture, ocean fisheries, and fresh water supply – on which human civilization depends. However, if rapid emissions reductions are delayed until 2030, then the global temperature will remain more than 1°C higher than preindustrial levels for about 400 years. Were the emissions cessation only to commence after 40 years, then the atmosphere would not return to 350 ppm CO2 for nearly 1,000 years. Projects that solidify our dependence on fossil fuels make it ever more likely that emission cessation goals will not be met.

13. Antarctic ice sheet mass loss is the potential source of large sea level rise. In ourIce Melt paper, we presented evidence, from modern observations, modeling, and paleoclimate analyses that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is slowing as a result of freshening of the ocean mixed layer in the North Atlantic. Resulting reduced northward heat transport in the ocean will tend to warm the Southern Ocean, increasing the threat of Antarctic ice mass loss. We concluded that continued high fossil fuel emissions this century would produce non-linearly growing sea level rise reaching multi-meter levels within a time scale of 50-150 years.

14. The climate system is now out of equilibrium. In such a system, in which the ocean and ice sheets have great inertia but are beginning to change, the existence of amplifying feedbacks presents a situation of great concern. There is a real, imminent danger that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control.

15. While Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change” concluded that the combination of rapid emissions reduction and storage of carbon in the soil and biosphere via reforestation and improved forestry and agricultural practices could keep global temperature close to the Holocene range, continued high emissions and continued global warming are altering that picture.

16. In Young People’s Burden, we showed that the rapid warming of the past four decades has raised global temperature to a level matching best estimates for the level of warmth in the Eemian period. The Eemian period, the most recent interglacial period prior to the Holocene, lasted from about 130,000 to 116,000 years before present. Global temperature in the Eemian, at about +1°C relative to 1880-1920, was moderately warmer than the Holocene and sea level reached heights as great as 6-9 meters (20-30 feet) above present. Thus, this analysis provides some insight into what may occur along our coastlines as global temperatures increase.

17. During the past several hundred years, cities were built along coastlines at or just above sea level with enormous investment. This has been possible because of stable sea levels. Similarly, agricultural regions and other settlements relate to relatively stable Holocene climate patterns. The exploitation of fossil fuels, however, has upset that stability. Our coastal cities, agricultural food production upon which we depend, and other environment-dependent livelihoods are placed at risk if we allow warming to continue. Because of the inertia of ocean temperature, i.e., the long period required to cool once it has warmed, we stand to lock in highly undesirable consequences for young people and future generations.

18. It is, accordingly, critical that we strive to keep global warming from exceeding about 1°C relative to the pre-industrial level, consistent with our prior conclusion that we must aim to reduce CO2 to less than 350 ppm. The appropriate limits for global temperature and atmospheric CO2 may be lower, but they certainly are not higher.

19. Achieving those goals now requires not only the phasing out of emissions— including abandoning new major fossil fuel investment—but also “negative emissions,” i.e., extraction of CO2 from the air, to the extent feasible and practicable.

20. If phase down of fossil fuel emissions begins soon, most of this extraction can still be achieved via improved agricultural and forestry practices, including reforestation and steps to improve soil fertility and increase its carbon content. In that case, the magnitude and duration of global temperature excursion above the natural range of the current interglacial (Holocene) could be minimized.

21. But, in contrast, continued high fossil fuel emissions would place a burden on young people to undertake massive technological CO2 extraction if they are to limit climate change and its consequences. Estimated costs of such extraction are in the range of tens to hundreds of trillion U.S. dollars this century, which raises severe questions about their feasibility. Continued high fossil fuel emissions unarguably sentences young people to a massive, implausible cleanup or growing deleterious climate impacts or both.

22. And yet we remain virtually locked in a worsening trajectory. See, in particular, Fig. 14 of Young People’s Burden (showing recent growth of total GHG effective climate forcing). This is the consequence both of affirmative actions to permit continued high fossil fuel extraction, production and utilization, and our collective failure to take affirmative action to secure emissions reduction. Rather, we see situations, where the government ignores the crisis and permits projects that depend on increasing fossil fuel extraction, exacerbate dangerous climate change, and risk our children’s rightful inheritance. We thus confront a planetary emergency: the harm to be prevented is imminent, further delay in confronting it serves to press that risk towards global catastrophe.

23. Particularly in light of approaching points of no return, it is, in my opinion, essential to commence serious and sustained action to return atmospheric CO2 to < 350 ppm without further delay. Essential, that is, if our governments wish to preserve coastal cities from rising seas and floods (caused in part by melting of Antarctic and Greenland ice) and superstorms, and otherwise to restore a viable climate system on which the life prospects of young persons and future generations so thoroughly depend.

The foregoing, accordingly, constitutes my best brief effort to explain our present, serious, global, climate crisis. I will have failed if, upon its review, the reader decides to shirk his or her fundamental responsibility. Now, more than before, we need to bring to bear our full acumen, time, and resources so as to demand and forge a viable future.

James E. Hansen New York, New York April 18, 2019

Signed by James E. Hansen

Largest #ClimateStrike held by students world-wide on 15 March 2019

21 March 2019

Young adults speak out for their future to hold adults accountable for #climatechange

The school strike held by students, around the entire world, this past Friday on the Ides of March, was the largest to date.

Young adults protested to demand that politicians craft better climate oriented policies, for their future. Students gathered to protest what the adults have, in their eyes, abused from previous (business) actions and privileges to take materials and produce, without regard for the consequences for future generations.

Over time, these adults actions and (business) policy decisions contributed to the growth of carbon dioxide emissions which in turn contribute to a generally higher median temperature of the earth, as shown by scientific research by NASA.

This “demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (From a statement of 18 world-wide scientific organizations, in 2009).

An increase can definitely be measured with human activity as the main driver of the increase. The earth has been through climactic changes in the past.

This one is unprecedented due in part to the earth’s past history of stabilization, around the past 2,000 years.

There exists scientific consensus upon scientific consensus, and that scenarios and possibilities exist to halt this increase by changing human interactions.

Students are taking matters into their own hands, under the leadership of Greta Thunberg, who stood up every Friday to protest and to hold adults accountable, initially all by herself.

The United Nations invited her to speak and she did so with furore, as you can see and hear here on YouTube.


We fully support the students in their endeavors to effect proper change in this ever-changing world.

You can support them by supporting the environmental human cases now pending, which have sometimes taken over 25 years to arrive at a level where they can have a world-wide impact.

For instance, the Chevron v. Ecuador case has taken over 26 years to now stand in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, on the very basic issue of whether human rights trump corporate privileges on a global scale.

You can also become an (online) activist by using your favorite activity to promote awareness for these cases here.

Because when we stand together, we stand stronger!

Fossil Fuel Companies Are on Trial

21 November 2018

Fossil fuel companies are on trial;

latest developments and future steps

Fossil fuel companies stand trial for their role in global warming. US cities, states and children demand accountability for climate change. Read about the latest developments and future steps.

Start of the lawsuits

Thirty years ago ExxonMobil recognized the threat of fossil fuels on the climate, but did not inform the public. The lawsuits started after ExxonMobil revealed they knew about the devastating effects. Now other fossil fuel companies are also standing trial.

The effects of climate change

Climate change damages cities, states and houses, but also impacts daily life. Especially in vulnerable coastal communities, extreme weather and sea level rise form a threat. Compensation is needed, and cities, states and children hold the fossil fuel companies accountable. If they win, the impact will be big. There will be a shift from the taxpayers to the companies to bear the costs for climate change.

Key events

The website ‘Inside Climate News’ lists all key events, from the first subpoena of ExxonMobil in November 2015 until the last developments in November 2018. Want to know more about the case: Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador? Check out our case page.

Children Climate Case Goes to Trial Stage

Youth v. Gov Climate Case Goes to Trial:

Is a Safe Climate a Civil Right?

In the United States a group of children between the ages of 11 to 22 are suing the U.S. government for their right to a safe and stable climate. This younger generation decided they would not sit idly and watch a safe future on this planet evaporate. Now they give a voice to their generation.

On 2 November 2018 the United States Supreme Court allowed the lawsuit to go ahead and proceed. Now the case may head to trial proceedings.

Safe climate is a civil right

In 2015 the children started testing the idea that a safe climate is a civil right, by filing the lawsuit against the Obama administration for the first time. The youth and children argued that the policy of the U.S. was not in the best interest of their future, by pursuing policies that harmed the climate.

It was robbing them of a future climate that supports broad human survival.

A straightforward request

Lead lawyer Julia Olson is also founder of the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. The mission of Our Children’s Trust is to protect children from climate change. She argues that the lawsuit has a pretty straightforward request. It asks a U.S. Federal judge to order the government to start planning how to reduce carbon emissions and stabilize the climate system for future generations.

The Trump administration

In 2017 the U.S. District Court judge agreed with the youths’ claim. They could proceed to trial.

That same year the Trump administration took over the litigative position of government in this case. President Trump ordered to roll back some of the climate regulations in place at the Environmental Protection Agency. The promotion of fossil fuel production and the indifference to the risks of greenhouse gas emissions has only grown since then.

The government lawyers in the case asked for a review of the U.S. District Court judge’s decision. The government lawyers wanted to halt the trail and avoid litigation.

In a separate motion the government lawyers were also fighting against a request by the youth’s lawyers that the Justice Department preserve all relevant documents to the lawsuit. This includes information on climate change, energy, and emissions.

U.S. government will go to court

On October 29, 2018, the trial should have begun, but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay. This meant there were larger legal issues pending the U.S. Supreme Court wanted to examine. The U.S. Supreme Court had received a request from the Justice Department for a stay to halt the case by the government’s lawyers.The Youth v. Gov case was temporarily halted while the U.S. Supreme Court decided.

On November 2nd the U.S. Supreme Court denied the government’s request.

Now the U.S. government will have to go to court. They will argue that there is no constitutional right to an environment free of climate change.

We will keep you posted on the proceedings of this interesting case.

In the mean time, should you want to learn more, you can check out their website at Youth v. Gov, or listen to this podcast.