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Coal - The Greatest Threat to Civilization — James Hansen

Coal - The Greatest Threat to Civilization — James Hansen

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Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet. The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil - fuel emissions over the next few decades. A moratorium on coal-fired power plants is by far the most important action that needs to be pursued.
Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet. The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil - fuel emissions over the next few decades. A moratorium on coal-fired power plants is by far the most important action that needs to be pursued.

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Published by: Post Carbon Institute on Jun 12, 2013
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09/09/2013

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COAL
THE GREATESTTHREAT TOCIVILIZATIONJAMES HANSEN
 
This publication is an excerpted chapter rom
The Energy Reader: Overdevelopment and the Delusion o Endless Growth
, Tom Butler, Daniel Lerch, and George Wuerthner,eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2012).
The Energy Reader 
is copyright© 2012 by the Foundation or Deep Ecology, and published in collaboration withWatershed Media and Post Carbon Institute.For other excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visit energy-reality.org or contact Post Carbon Institute.Photo: Howie Garber.
The coal-fred Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs, Wyoming,is one o the United States’ leading emitters o greenhouse gas pollution.
about the author
 James Hansen
is director o NASA’s Goddard Institute or Space Studies in New York and a leading atmosphericscientist. An internationally recognized authority on climate change, he has become one o the most prominentpublic communicators about the dangers o climate disruption caused by human activity.
Post Carbon Institute | 613 4th Street, Suite 208 | Santa Rosa, California 95404 USA
 
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n 2008, I wrote to ormer British prime minister Gordon Brown asking him to place a moratorium onnew coal-fred power plants in Britain. I have asked thesame o Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd,and other national leaders. The reason is this—coal isthe single greatest threat to civilization and all lie onour planet.The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes arebeginning to appear and there is a potential or explo-sive changes, eects that would be irreversible, i wedo not rapidly slow ossil-uel emissions over the nextew decades. As Arctic sea ice melts, the darker oceanabsorbs more sunlight and speeds melting. As the tun-dra melts, methane, a strong greenhouse gas, is released,causing more warming. As species are exterminatedby shiting climate zones, ecosystems can collapse,destroying more species.The public, bueted by weather luctuations andeconomic turmoil, has little time to analyze decadalchanges. How can people be expected to evaluate andflter out advice emanating rom those pushing specialinterests? How can people distinguish between top-notch science and pseudoscience?Those who lead us have no excuse—they are elected toguide, to protect the public and its best interests. Theyhave at their disposal the best scientifc organizationsin the world, such as the Royal Society and the U.S.National Academy o Sciences. Only in the past ew years did the science crystallize, revealing the urgency.Our planet is in peril. I we do not change course,we’ll hand our children a situation that is out o their control. One ecological collapse will lead to another,in ampliying eedbacks.The amount o carbon dioxide in the air has already risento a dangerous level. The pre-industrial carbon dioxideamount was 280 parts per million (ppm). Humans, byburning coal, oil, and gas, have increased this to 390 ppm;it continues to grow by about 2 ppm per year. Earth, withits our-kilometer-deep oceans, responds only slowly tochanges o carbon dioxide. So the climate will continueto change, even i we make maximum eort to slowthe growth o carbon dioxide emissions. Arctic sea icewill melt away in the summer season within the nextew decades. Mountain glaciers, providing resh water or rivers that supply hundreds o millions o people,will disappear—practically all o the glaciers could begone within fty years—i carbon dioxide continues toincrease at current rates. Coral rees, harboring a quarter o ocean species, are threatened.The greatest danger hanging over our children andgrandchildren is initiation o changes that will be irre-versible on any timescale that humans can imagine. I coastal ice shelves buttressing the West Antarctic Ice
 
Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all lifeon our planet. The climate is nearing tipping points.Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potentialfor explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the nextfew decades. A moratorium on coal-fired power plants isby far the most important action that needs to be pursued.

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