Those of us who have been following developments on climate change and global warming are asked, “If the planet is getting warmer, why is it so cold in 2009?” James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, says that he often is asked the same question. So, he has published an essay titled, “If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold?” and placed it on his website.
In this paper, he states that 2009 tied as the second warmest year in the 130 years of global instrumental temperature records based on analysis of data at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The Southern Hemisphere set a record as the warmest year for that half of the world.
Hansen and his three co-authors go into great detail describing how temperatures vary across the globe. In Figure 5, they show a temperature anomaly in which temperatures for June-July-August (2009) over much of eastern North America were the coolest on the globe, averaging as much as 1 degree Celsius (33.8 degrees Fahrenheit) below the rest of the world. The regional anomaly expanded over most of North America in December 2009, even though global temperatures for that month were the fourth highest on record.
There was a negative temperature anomaly in Siberia that averaged -8 degrees C.(46.4 degrees F.) over the month of December. But, the temperature anomaly in the Arctic region as a whole was +7 degrees C. (44.6 degrees F.)
I have just read Hansen’s new book, Storms of My Grandchildren: the Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. The book is a wonderful example of science written with clarity.
More importantly, Hansen tells policy makers what they need to do to reverse the steady climb in greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. He argues for stopping the burning of all fossil fuels. He shows how a cap-and-trade policy will not work.
Instead he advocates a fee-and-dividend policy that would tax fossil fuels at their source, gradually increase the tax over time, and return 100 percent of the dividends to the people to offset increases in the cost of energy. He also supports the development of third and fourth generation nuclear power.
Finally, as the title implies, he gets quite personal in saying that unless we initiate these policies immediately, our grandchildren will live in a world of chaos and poverty.
This is no ordinary gloom and doom book. It provides ample evidence of the threat of global warming. Read his book and visit his web site frequently to get the latest updates on the science and policy of climate change.
Professor Emeritus of Animal Ecology
Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management
Iowa State University
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