Dr. James Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. The first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change in the 1980’s, he was also once censored by several government agencies and his warnings of the causes of climate change watered down.
Over the last few years, Dr. Hansen’s concerns regarding climate change have by no means mellowed, but have reached a new sense of urgency. He has become increasingly vocal about a looming global catastrophe; stating there is little time left before our climate reaches a tipping from which there will be no return. The most clear and present danger he sees is the continued burning of coal.
Last year, he wrote to leaders including the UK’s Gordon Brown, Germany’s Angela Merkel, USA’s Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, asking them to place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.
In an article he recently wrote for The Guardian, Dr. Hansen lashed out at the Australian Government, stating that it had been elected on a platform of solving the climate problem, but under the influence of industry, set emission targets that will guarantee untold disasters for current and future generations.
“The German and Australian governments pretend to be green” he states. “These governments are not green. They are black – coal black.”
He accuses governments of playing “dirty tricks” on their citizens with their support of controversial clean coal technologies. “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.”
Dr Hansen believes if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide – coal – it will be possible to bring carbon dioxide levels back to 350 parts per million from current levels of 385 parts per million, which are continuing to rise rapidly.
Supporter of renewable energy in Australia have argued that the coal industry’s day has long passed and the burning of coal should be phased out immediately; transferring jobs from that industry into the wind and solar sector. Once a leader in solar power technology, Australia is now lagging far behind other countries in not only research and development, but also uptake of solar energy. Other countries with less sunshine than Australia have far more grid connected rooftop solar arrays, thanks to initiatives such as feed in tariffs.
The Australian public seems enthusiastic about a clean solar future replacing emissions intensive coal fire powered generation as is evident through a petition launched just under a month ago at FeedInTariff.com.au. The petition has already gathered 10,000 signatures along with many comments expressing outrage that the government, in its development of energy, environment and climate policies, appears to be favouring the very industry causing so much of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.