Former NASA climate chief James Hansen believes climate change's most dangerous effect will be a continuous rise in sea levels and not necessarily the increase in temperatures. Because so many people live in coastal cities, the mass migrations inland that will follow this rise could leave the world in ungovernable chaos.
[Futurism] Simply fixating on the potential negative effects of climate change instead of focusing on efforts to combat it will not help our planet. However, climate change predictions are the reason these efforts matter, and they provide valuable insights as to how we should take action.
According to former NASA climate research head James Hansen, the effect of climate change we should be most focused on isn’t the warming of the atmosphere. It’s the rising sea levels.
Hansen told New York Mag that
he doesn’t think the atmosphere will actually warm as much as some have
predicted by the end of the century, but he does think that sea levels
will rise significantly due to melting polar caps. “I don’t think we’re
going to get four or five degrees [Celsius] this century, because we get
a cooling effect from the melting ice. But the biggest effect will be
that melting ice,” he asserted. “In my opinion that’s the big thing –
In a paper published last year, Hansen warned that continuous reliance on fossil fuels
could increase sea levels by several meters in just a period of 50 to
150 years. That seems like a long time, but Hansen’s predictions are
significantly greater than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projected range of sea level rise of 30 centimeters (~1 foot) to just under a meter (3.2 feet).
Coastlines are home to more than half the world’s large cities, so a
significant portion of the population will be affected by these rising
sea levels. “The economic implications of that, and the migrations and
the social effects of migrations … the planet could become practically
ungovernable, it seems to me,” said Hansen.
Of course, the rising temperatures themselves will impact the
population, too. While they won’t really be an issue in the U.S., Hansen
believes they could be a major problem for countries in the subtropics.
If the prediction of a four to five degrees Celsius (7.2 to nine
degrees Fahrenheit) increase does come true, it would make these places
practically uninhabitable and potentially grind their economies to a
“It’s already becoming uncomfortable in the summers, in the
subtropics. You can’t work outdoors, and agriculture, more than half of
the jobs are outdoors,” he explained.
Hansen asserts that a carbon tax could help stabilize the economy as
the world transitions away from fossil fuels, but the important thing is
that this transition happens. Without serious efforts on every level,
from the individual to the institutional, we stand no chance of
preventing climate change from wreaking havoc on our planet. Learn More