World's Leading Climate Scientist Writes to Obama

27 January 2009

Photo: realjameso16

Professor James Hansen, who is one of the world's leading experts on climate change, has sent an open letter to Barack Obama and his wife, outlining the problems that the planet faces. He says that urgency now dictates a personal appeal to the US President-elect: “Scientists at the forefront of climate research have seen a stream of new data in the past few years with startling implications for humanity and all life on Earth…There is a profound disconnect between actions that policy circles are considering and what the science demands for preservation of the planet. A stark scientific conclusion, that we must reduce greenhouse gases below present amounts to preserve nature and humanity, has become clear to the relevant experts.”

In a long, and carefully reasoned letter, Hansen puts forward the following points:

  1. Moratorium and phase-out of coal plants that do not capture and store CO2. Coal is responsible for a as much CO2 as all other fossil fuels combined.
  2. A carbon tax. This will spur innovation and penalise carbon emitters.
  3. R & D on Fourth Generation Nuclear Power. Controversially, Hansen believes that the world will need nuclear power to provide low-carbon baseload power; he also thinks that an international R & D effort is needed to build these plants, together with CCS enabled coal-fired power stations in a short enough period of time to have an effect on climate change.

He concludes:

“The challenges today, including climate change, are great and urgent. Barack's leadership is essential to explain to the world what is needed. The public, young and old, recognize the difficulties and will support the actions needed for a fundamental change of direction.

James and Anniek Hansen
United States of America”

This is a very important statement. It is possible to argue about points 2 and 3. There may be better ways of applying resources, but when a scientist of Hansen's calibre makes an appeal to a new president who has promised “Change” we can hope that he will reach a receptive person, who can have an impact on the problem. If President Obama can provide leadership when the UN Climate Conference opens in Copenhaven on 7 th December 2009, to negotiate the successor to the Kyoto Agreement, then there is some hope for a fair and negotiated treaty to reduce carbon emissions.

Full text of Hansen Letter

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