Dr. James Hansen, an adjunct professor from the Earth Institute at Columbia University, visited UR on Monday, April 20 to hold a seminar about the possible dangers of global warming in the upcoming years. The seminar was entitled, “Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming is Dangerous.”

Hansen is the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and studied Physics and Mathematics at the University of Iowa. In 2006, Time Magazine named him one of the year’s 100 Most Influential People. Hansen has won many awards, including the Carl-Gustaf Rossby and Roger Revelle Research Medals, the Blue Planet Prize and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. In 2009, Hansen published a book on climate change called “Storms of My Grandchildren.”

At the seminar, Hansen explained his stance on the current state of Earth’s warming trend with a series of graphs.

“The real world is melting faster than we assumed,” said Hansen. “The cooling is not evenly distributed.”

The past three months have been recorded as the warmest on a global scale, yet due to the uneven distribution of climate change, not all locations have experienced this recent warming.

According to Hansen, the ocean is expanding due to the rapidly decreasing mass of ice sheets. The increased precipitation, however, leads to more snow, which in turn keeps the area of the ice sheets relatively constant.

Approximately eight years ago, Hansen read the research and findings of geologist Paul Hardy, which led Hansen to further analyze the melting ice.

“I think it’s not a linear process,” Hansen said of the melting glaciers, also noting, “I think ice sheets aren’t nearly as stable as people assume.”

The largest effect of the melting glaciers is their contribution to Earth’s energy imbalance, as energy from the melting ice is transferred into the ocean. Hansen predicts that decreasing Earth’s total energy usage by six percent would restore the energy balance completely by the year 2100.

Addressing the younger members of the audience, he said, “We have to figure out a system that deals with this problem. And that, I’m sorry to say, is your problem.”

Hansen concluded the seminar by questioning the best course of action. A carbon tax is a possible solution to the increasing use of fossil fuels. Hansen noted that the issue is also a political one.

Hansen plans to publish his ideas and findings in greater detail in the upcoming weeks.

Konzel is a member of

the class of 2018.



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