Scientific case for avoiding dangerous climate change to protect young people and nature

James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, Makiko Sato, Frank Ackerman, Paul J. Hearty, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Shi-Ling Hsu, Fred Krueger, Camille Parmesan, Stefan Rahmstorf, Johan Rockstrom, Eelco J. Rohling, Jeffrey Sachs, Pete Smith, Konrad Steffen, Lise Van Susteren, Karina von Schuckmann, James C. Zachos

Research output: Working paper


Global warming due to human-made gases, mainly CO2, is already 0.8{\deg}C and deleterious climate impacts are growing worldwide. More warming is 'in the pipeline' because Earth is out of energy balance, with absorbed solar energy exceeding planetary heat radiation. Maintaining a climate that resembles the Holocene, the world of stable shorelines in which civilization developed, requires rapidly reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions. Such a scenario is economically sensible and has multiple benefits for humanity and other species. Yet fossil fuel extraction is expanding, including highly carbon-intensive sources that can push the climate system beyond tipping points such that amplifying feedbacks drive further climate change that is practically out of humanity's control. This situation raises profound moral issues as young people, future generations, and nature, with no possibility of protecting their future well-being, will bear the principal consequences of actions and inactions of today's adults.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
Publication statusSubmitted - 6 Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements. This paper is dedicated to Paul Epstein, a fervent defender of the health of humans and the environment, who graciously provided important inputs to this paper in the spring and summer of 2011 while battling late stages of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. We thank Inez Fung and Charles Komanoff for perceptive helpful reviews and Mark Chandler, Bishop Dansby, Ian Dunlop, Dian Gaffen Seidel, Edward Greisch, Fred Hendrick, Tim Mock, Ana Prados, and Rob Socolow for helpful suggestions on a draft of the paper.

Version submitted to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


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