Assessing 'Dangerous Climate Change': Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature

8(12) PLOS ONE e81648 (December 2013)

26 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2013

See all articles by James Hansen

James Hansen

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute

Pushker Kharecha

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute

Makiko Sato

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute

Valerie Masson-Delmotte

Institut Pierre Simon Laplace

Frank Ackerman

Synapse Energy Economics

David Beerling

University of Sheffield - Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

Paul Hearty

University of North Carolina at Wilmington - Department of Environmental Studies

Shi-Ling Hsu

Florida State University - College of Law

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

Global Change Institute, University of Queensland

Camille Parmesan

University of Texas at Austin - Section of Integrative Biology

Johan Rockstrom

Stockholm University - Stockholm Resilience Center

Jeffrey D. Sachs

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Pete Smith

University of Aberdeen

Konrad Steffen

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Lise Van Susteren

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Karina von Schuckmann

L'Institut Francais de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer

James Zachos

University of California, Santa Cruz

Date Written: December 18, 2013

Abstract

We assess climate impacts of global warming using ongoing observations and paleoclimate data. We use Earth’s measured energy imbalance, paleoclimate data, and simple representations of the global carbon cycle and temperature to define emission reductions needed to stabilize climate and avoid potentially disastrous impacts on today’s young people, future generations, and nature. A cumulative industrial-era limit of 500 GtC fossil fuel emissions and 100 GtC storage in the biosphere and soil would keep climate close to the Holocene range to which humanity and other species are adapted. Cumulative emissions of 1000 GtC, sometimes associated with 2uC global warming, would spur "slow" feedbacks and eventual warming of 3-4uC with disastrous consequences. Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects. Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice. Responsible policymaking requires a rising price on carbon emissions that would preclude emissions from most remaining coal and unconventional fossil fuels and phase down emissions from conventional fossil fuels.

Suggested Citation

Hansen, James and Kharecha, Pushker and Sato, Makiko and Masson-Delmotte, Valerie and Ackerman, Frank and Beerling, David and Hearty, Paul and Hsu, Shi-Ling and Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove and Parmesan, Camille and Rockstrom, Johan and Sachs, Jeffrey D. and Smith, Pete and Steffen, Konrad and Van Susteren, Lise and von Schuckmann, Karina and Zachos, James, Assessing 'Dangerous Climate Change': Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature (December 18, 2013). 8(12) PLOS ONE e81648 (December 2013), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2369513

James Hansen (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute ( email )

314 Low Library
535 West 116th Street, MC 4327
New York, NY 10027
United States

Pushker Kharecha

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute ( email )

314 Low Library
535 West 116th Street, MC 4327
New York, NY 10027
United States

Makiko Sato

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute ( email )

Interchurch Center
475 Riverside Drive, 239T
New York, NY 10115
United States

Valerie Masson-Delmotte

Institut Pierre Simon Laplace ( email )

4 place Jussieu
Boîte 101
Paris, 75252
France

Frank Ackerman

Synapse Energy Economics ( email )

485 Massachusetts Avenue #2
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
6176613248 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://synapse-energy.com

David Beerling

University of Sheffield - Department of Animal and Plant Sciences ( email )

Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Paul Hearty

University of North Carolina at Wilmington - Department of Environmental Studies ( email )

601 South College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5949
United States

Shi-Ling Hsu

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

HOME PAGE: http://myweb.fsu.edu/shsu/

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

Global Change Institute, University of Queensland ( email )

St. Lucia, Queensland QLD 4072
Australia

Camille Parmesan

University of Texas at Austin - Section of Integrative Biology ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

Johan Rockstrom

Stockholm University - Stockholm Resilience Center ( email )

Kräftriket 2B
Stockholm, SE-114 19
Sweden

Jeffrey D. Sachs

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute ( email )

314 Low Library
535 West 116th Street, MC 4327
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-8704 (Phone)
212-854-8702 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Pete Smith

University of Aberdeen ( email )

Dunbar Street
Aberdeen, Scotland AB24 3QY
United Kingdom

Konrad Steffen

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ( email )

Lausanne
Switzerland

Lise Van Susteren

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health ( email )

677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02115
United States

Karina Von Schuckmann

L'Institut Francais de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer ( email )

155, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Issy-les-Moulineaux, (F-92138)
France

James Zachos

University of California, Santa Cruz ( email )

1156 High St
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
United States

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