Harvard professor, James Anderson, says we have just five years left to change course or it's over.
Anderson, a professor of atmospheric chemistry, says that once the permanent ice in the Arctic is gone our window of opportunity to act goes with it.
People have the misapprehension that we can recover from this state just by reducing carbon emissions, Anderson said in an appearance at the University of Chicago. Recovery is all but impossible, he argued, without a World War II-style transformation of industry-an acceleration of the effort to halt carbon pollution and remove it from the atmosphere, and a new effort to reflect sunlight away from the earth's poles.
This has do be done, Anderson added, within the next five years. "The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero," Anderson said, with 75 to 80 percent of permanent ice having melted already in the last 35 years.
"Can we lose 75-80 percent of permanent ice and recover? The answer is no." The answer is no in part because of what scientists call feedbacks, some of the ways the earth responds to warming. Among those feedbacks is the release of methane currently trapped in permafrost and under the sea, which will intensify warming. Another is the pending collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, which Anderson said will raise sea level by seven meters, or about 23 feet.
"People at this point haven't come to grips with the irreversibility of this sea-level rise problem," Anderson said, displaying a map that shows the site of Harvard's new $10 billion Allston campus immersed after 3 meters of sea-level rise. He followed that map with images of Manhattan shrunken by encroaching waters and Florida missing its southern tip.
"When you look at the irreversibility and you study the numbers, this along with the moral issue is what keeps you up at night," Anderson said.I don't know. Maybe this fancy Harvard professor is just blowing smoke. Maybe Justin Trudeau and Cathy McKenna know better. Who would you bet on?