If you believe the claims of Dr. James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist and prominent global warming alarmist, then you will also have to come to terms with accepting a drastic increase in your power bill.
The document was posted during the week of March 17 on Hansen’s Columbia University Web site. It did not get much coverage by the media, with exception of New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin’s DotEarth blog – and the proposal to completely phase out of coal-fired electricity was buried deep in his post.
“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm,” the document said. “The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.”
According to the report, to achieve the goals required to avoid the dangerous warming trend forecasted, the phasing out of coal emissions by 2030 would be needed to keep maximum CO2 close to 400 ppm. The document also stated that coal is the largest reservoir of conventional fossil fuels, exceeding combined reserves of oil and gas. But, capturing and sequestering carbon from coal emissions, even as the paper’s summary says, “is unlikely.”
According to the American Coal Council’s Web site, coal currently supplies more than 50 percent of all electricity generated in the United States. The next largest source is nuclear (20 percent), followed by natural gas (18 percent). The complete phase-out of coal-fired plants would drastically affect the supply and demand relationship of U.S. energy policy.
Hansen’s scientific claims were recently called into question at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change on March 4 in New York. Famed hurricane forecaster William Gray said he believed the earth would experience a cooling period in 10 years. He said the models Hansen used to forecast drastic increases in the earth’s temperature due to carbon in the atmosphere were flawed because they included too much water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas.
“[S]o he puts that much vapor in his model and of course he gets this,” Gray said. “He must get upper troposphere where the temperature is seven degrees warmer for a doubl[ing of] CO2. Well, the reason he got that was – why this upper-level warming was there – was he put too much water vapor in the model.”