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Young People Inheriting a Situation That's 'Out of Their Control'

Eric Kort, Creative Commons 2.0
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Cracks in the ice cover of the arctic ocean. As Earth's climate warms thes cracks are allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere, where it can add to global warming.

One of the nation's best-known climate scientists is joining a lawsuit against the government to pressure for policies to address global warming.

James Hansen says even leaders who say we have a "planet in peril," like President Obama, continue to push policies for extracting more fossil fuels.  Hansen says we can't burn all of those fossil fuels without guaranteeing that young people will "inherit a situation that's out of their control."

The evidence is not based on climate models. It's based on observation of the real world.

Hansen formerly headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, but left that post in 2013 after a 46-year career.  He is now an adjunct professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Columbia University.  Hansen tells Host Ben Kieffer that he resigned to have enough time to speak out about climate change.  He's speaking at Drake University in Des Moines on Wednesday, October 15. 

Hansen also has filed a friend of the court, or Amicus, brief in a lawsuit filed by Our Children's Trust against the federal government.  That suit claims the government has a duty to preserve and restore the atmosphere as a fundamental natural resource.  Hansen plans another suit to argue that ignoring that duty would deny young people and future generations their equal protection under the law and deprive them of  property without due process.

Most religious people feel we have an obligation to preserve creation.

Hansen says the warming ocean is causing the ice shelves to melt, and icebergs to be discharged more rapidly, causing sea levels to rise.  He says the economic impact of losing all the coastal cities around the world is going to be enormous.

Hansen advocates for charging fossil fuel companies a slowly rising fee and returning the money to taxpayers, rather than putting it in government coffers.  He says that's the only solution that could be embraced by both liberals and conservatives.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Katherine Perkins is IPR's Program Director for News and Talk