A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

“Game Over” for Climate Warns Top NASA Scientist

From pristine forest to world-polluting wasteland – Photos by Peter Essick, 2009

James Hansen, the NASA scientist who’s considered the leading expert on climate science has a bleak warning in today’s New York Times: If Canada proceeds with the exploitation of its vast oil tar sands, “it will be game over for the planet.”

james-hansen_thumb[1]Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now.

That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction.

Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

Hansen is among a group of scientists and economists who have embraced a simple plan to start reducing greenhouse gases and move toward new sources of energy. Right now, the

We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny. This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices.

Although plans to build an oil pipeline all the way from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico have been put on hold (ranching communities in the U.S. are as nervous as environmentalists at the likelihood of an oil spill sooner or later), the drill-baby-drill crowd is salivating over the tar sands.

Unless a political miracle happens in Congress and the administration, the dirty energy lobbies will inevitably win … and then we will all lose.