In a recent Washington Post op-ed, James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, co-author of the Fourth IPCC Report and commonly cited “godfather of global warming”, reported that “climate change is here—and worse than we thought.” This op-ed marks the release of a new peer-reviewed study yesterday, led by Hansen and published by the National Academy of Sciences, which directly links climate change to much of the recent extreme weather.While these words might seem new and fitting to call attention to the issue at hand, Hansen has recited these words before; in 1988, he testified before the Senate and said “Global warming has begun.” In the recent op-ed, he recounted his testimony before the Senate in the hot summer of 1988 where he painted a grim picture of the future effects of climate change on the planet. However, contra to what you may hear from those saying “climate change stopped in the 1990s,” Hansen admits that when he painted that picture, he was too optimistic. The situation is much worse than expected. Over the past 20+ years, the climate has continued to change and puzzle those who are caught in its wake.
This summer’s extreme weather has left many wondering what exactly is happening in our atmosphere, as many did in 1988. This confusion over the relentless extreme weather has led scientist to investigate why these events are occurring. A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier this summer stated that climate change, including human factors, has increased the odds of extreme weather. Though this was a ground-breaking finding, NASA has been researching the links between climate change and extreme weather for months.
Although the report was written before the current drought and record-breaking temperatures in the US, Hansen said that once the data is gathered in a few weeks, it’s likely that these events will be linked to climate change. The report links the deadly European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010(which led to food price shocks and thousands and deaths), and the droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year to climate change. The authors of the report created a bell curve to show the shifting distribution of summer temperature anomalies by plotting data over the last 30 years. They found that as time went on and the planet gets warmer, the bell curve moved to the right, including more ‘hot’, ‘very hot’ and ‘extremely hot’ events.
Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center GISS and Scientific Visualization Studio
In the Washington Post op-ed, Hansen said:
“Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change…To the contrary … for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.”
Hansen was interviewed by PBS Newshour, where he discussed the impacts of these events, saying:
“The probability of these unusually hot, hot spells, forest fires and extreme droughts has increased substantially over the last few decades. Now they are occurring about 10 percent of the time. And those are the things that have big economic impacts.”
Although the recent NASA study has made clear that climate change is causing extreme weather and is having tremendous impacts globally, some are still denying the science. Even if that science came from NASA, the organization that just put a rover on mars. If scientific facts from NASA aren’t enough to prove that the climate is changing, who knows what is. In any event, NASA’s study has made clear that the effects of climate change are catastrophic and there’s no time like today to act.
To listen to Hansen’s interview with PBS Newshour, see below:
Watch NASA Study Links Extreme Summer Heat to Climate Change on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.