NEW DELHI: Global warming is happening faster than previously thought, which could lead to a critical temperature limit being crossed within this decade, according to a study led by James Hansen, a US scientist known for his early warnings about the greenhouse effect.
The research reveals that the Earth’s climate is more responsive to human activities than previously understood, meaning that a “dangerous” burst of heating will be unleashed which could lead to a significant increase in global temperatures, with the world becoming 1.5°C hotter than what it was within the 2020s and 2°C hotter by 2050, the paper published on Thursday predicts.
According to The Guardian, The concerning acceleration of global warming, leading to a potential breach of the internationally established 1.5°C limit outlined in the Paris climate agreement ahead of schedule, poses a world that could become “less tolerable to humanity, with greater climate extremes.” This insight comes from a study led by James Hansen, a former NASA scientist who delivered a crucial warning about climate change to the US Congress in the 1980s.
Hansen explains that there is a substantial amount of global warming already in progress due to ongoing fossil fuel usage, and the Earth is “very sensitive” to these impacts, far more than the estimates by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Hansen said, “We would be damned fools and bad scientists if we didn’t expect an acceleration of global warming. We are beginning to suffer the effect of our Faustian bargain. That is why the rate of global warming is accelerating.”
Scientists have been debating whether global warming is speeding up this year, especially with temperatures reaching record highs. Hansen has pointed out an imbalance in the energy the Earth receives from the sun and the energy it emits, which has significantly increased over the past ten years. This could lead to a severe rise in sea levels, particularly affecting coastal cities.
The recent research, which involves Hansen and more than a dozen scientists, argues that this energy imbalance, the Earth’s increased climate sensitivity, and a reduction in pollution from shipping, resulting in fewer sulphur particles that reflect sunlight, are all contributing to the acceleration of global warming.
“We are in the early phase of a climate emergency,” the paper warns. “Such acceleration is dangerous in a climate system that is already far out of equilibrium. Reversing the trend is essential – we must cool the planet – for the sake of preserving shorelines and saving the world’s coastal cities.”
To address this crisis, Hansen and his colleagues propose a global carbon tax and controversially, the deliberate release of sulfur into the atmosphere to deflect heat and lower global temperatures, known as “solar geoengineering.”
“Solar geoengineering” has faced substantial criticism due to concerns about potential harm to the environment and the risk of a rebound effect if sulfur injections are halted. However, a small group of scientists support this approach, emphasizing that the world is running out of time and solutions to prevent disastrous temperature increases.
Hansen said that while reducing emissions should be the highest priority, “thanks to the slowness in developing adequate carbon-free energies and failure to put a price on carbon emissions, it is now unlikely that we can get there – a bright future for young people – from here without temporary help from solar radiation management”, reported The Guardians.
This year is on track to be the hottest ever recorded with high certainty, and one climate researcher described the temperatures in September as remarkably extreme. A recent report has shown that the available carbon budget to keep global warming within 1.5°C is almost used up, mainly due to ongoing fossil fuel use and deforestation.
James Hansen’s warnings have largely come true, and his concerns about the escalating impact of global warming are being taken seriously by many researchers. However, there is still debate on the exact rate of acceleration.
Climate scientist Michael Mann from the University of Pennsylvania said that James Hansen and his co-authors are “very much out of the mainstream” in identifying an acceleration in surface warming, which has “continued at a remarkably constant rate for the past few decades”. Mann said that reducing shipping emissions has minimal impact on the climate system and regards the idea of solar geoengineering as misguided and a “very slippery slope”.
Bärbel Hönisch, a paleoclimatologist at Columbia University, said “I’d be a little more reserved, but they may well be correct – it’s a nicely written paper. It raises a lot of questions that will trigger a lot of research that will bring our understanding forward.”
Rob Jackson, a Stanford University scientist and chair of the Global Carbon Project said “I think Hansen’s contention that the IPCC has underestimated climate sensitivity somewhat will prove to be correct. It’s hard to know what’s unlikely any more in terms of warming. No fossil fuel has declined in use yet globally, not even coal.”
“I think Hansen’s pessimism is warranted. He stood up 35 years ago and sounded the alarm – and the world mostly ignored him, and all of us.”
Other researchers are more open to James Hansen’s alarming prediction of intensified global warming.
(With input from agencies)

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