Former NASA scientist and current adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute James Hansen is out with a new paper, published Tuesday in Earth Systems Dynamics, which outlines the science behind man-made climate change as well as the exceptional effort required to keep warming below 1.5°C (2.7°F).
Hansen argues that future generations will need to remove carbon dioxide from the air and that reducing emissions is not enough to limit global warming. The paper is meant to provide scientific support for a lawsuit currently working its way through the courts, which pits a group of youth plaintiffs against the federal government. The case, Juliana v. United States, is scheduled to go to trial in early February.
“The courts must step in to help us,” said Sophie Kivlehan, one of the youth plaintiffs and Hansen’s granddaughter. Kivlehan said human-caused climate change “violates the rights of young people and future generations to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and property, without due process of law.”
Initially filed in August 2015 against the Obama administration, the lawsuit — which now names President Donald Trump as the primary defendant — alleges that the federal government, through its fossil fuel-friendly policies and decisions, has failed to preserve the youth’s constitutional right to a livable climate.
“In particular, our case focuses on putting the best available science in the courtroom to show how our youngest generation and future generations will be burdened by the continued high fossil fuel emissions,” Phillip Gregory, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said on a press call Tuesday.
Hansen said that his paper is meant to explain the science of climate change “to the educated layperson, including judges in court.” The paper also explores the cost of deploying various carbon sequestration technologies, which Hansen estimates could cost as much as $18.5 trillion.
“There is this narrative out there…that we have turned the corner on dealing with the climate problem,” Hansen said. “The growth rate of these greenhouse gases is actually accelerating in the past several years. Not only are they continuing to grow but they are growing faster.”