James Hansen: “Human-Made Climate Change: A Scientific, Moral and Legal Issue”

This is the lecture I recommend to my friends to start with, if they want a concise description of the science and the challenges that lies ahead. It is really a wonderful lecture by Dr. James Hansen aimed towards the general public.

The talk is called “Human-Made Climate Change: A Scientific, Moral and Legal Issue” and is ca 50 minutes long (it starts at 05:20 and ends at about 58:10, followed by Q&A). The talk was recorded at Hansen’s New Zealand tour in spring 2011 at the University of Otago, NZ.

The talk is also available as a podcast from iTunes U here:

From the iTunes U description: “Dr. James Hansen is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University?s Earth Institute. He is best known for bringing the urgency of the climate change issue to the world?s attention when he gave evidence to the US congress in 1988. Jeanette Fitzsimons, prominent NZ environmentalist, says: “Dr. Hansen is one of the best-known climate scientists in the world. He offers a recipe for how to achieve a stable climate that will be particularly relevant to New Zealand.” Held May 18, 2011.

The lecture draws much from the paper “The Case for Young People and Nature: A Path to a Healthy, Natural, Prosperous Future” by James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, Makiko Sato, Paul Epstein, Paul J. Hearty, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Camille Parmesan, Stefan Rahmstorf, Johan Rockstrom, Eelco J.Rohling, Jeffrey Sachs, Peter Smith, Konrad Steffen, Karina von Schuckmann, James C. Zachos.

An interesting paper with an unusual title by a long list of distinguished authors. The paper can be downloaded here:  20110505_CaseForYoungPeople or from James Hansen’s homepage (you find it under 2011).


Documentary of Research on The Pine Island Glacier and Lecture by Dr. Robert Bindschadler

This post contains two great videos.

The first is called “The Pine Island Glacier Research Expedition” and is a brilliant documentary in four short parts showing some of the challenges involved in doing science on the ground in Antarctica. It includes amazing footage from the ice-shelf of the Pine Island Glacier (“PIG”), the most active glacier in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (“WAIS”).

The Pine Island Glacier has been called the “weak underbelly of the west antarctic ice sheet”, because it could be a potential the trigger for a collapse of the WAIS, eventually leading to several meters of sea level rise. (See this Real Climate post by Mauri Pelto for some background of the PIG, including some scientific papers.)

The documentary portraits the first season of the multi-year project “Ocean-Ice Interaction in the Amundsen Sea: the Keystone to Ice-Sheet Stability” (love their logo below)

It focuses on the work on the ground by expedition leader, Dr. Robert Bindschadler, Chief Scientist, Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Dr. David M. Holland, Professor of Mathematics, Center for Atmosphere Ocean Science. The documentary is very professionally produced by POLAR-PALOOZA and PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE. The videos can be downloaded from their site. But I have also uploaded them, for your convenience (see below).

The project has since continued, after many problems and delays. The expedition homepage has lots of interesting information, including up-to-date blog posts from Antarctica by Bindschadler himself, and others in the team. For some more context, see also this interview of Dr. Bindschadler.

The second video is a lecture by Dr. Bindschadler, called “Waking Giants: Ice Sheets in a Warming World (see below).

Dr Bindschadler is an excellent speaker and in his talk he gives an overview of the causes of concern for sea level rise. He is also more frank than is often heard from glaciologists. For example, he says that “there is no physical reason … that those outlet glaciers won’t just eat out the heart of the Greenland ice sheet” (0:51-)

and regarding the outlet glaciers in Antarctica, “there is no reason they should’t be draining the entire marine-based part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheets, and perhaps similar to the East Antarctic Ice Sheet” (0:52-ff)

The Documentary (descriptions from POLAR-PALOOZA):

“In part 1, “The Road Less Traveled”, NASA’s Bob Bindschadler and NYU’s David Holland set off for Antarctica and explaining their mission. Then, accompanied by a mountaineer and POLAR-PALOOZA’s embedded cameraman, they head off to the WAIS Divide Camp, jumping off point for their trip to the PIG, the Pine Island Glacier.”

“Part 2, “To The Ice Shelf And Back”, sees Bindschadler land on the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, a place no human has ever visited before. All seems to be going well, but en route back to WAIS to collect more gear, Bob’s told that the landing site is too hard for more safe touchdowns. Bitterly disappointed, back at WAIS, he works with Holland to get as much science data as possible. They get permission from NSF to deploy their Automated Weather Station. Will bad weather and crevasses stymie that plan too?”
“Part 3, “A Weather Station will be Installed”, we accompany Holland, mountaineer Galen Dossin, and videographer Cliff Leight as they manhandle the heavy AWS in place, and assemble the electronics, solar panels and wind turbines. At first, the weather’s fine, but then – as always in Antarctica – conditions change, and testing has to be done in blowing snow and wind. It’s even worse at WAIS: they have to wait, marooned in the field, for the flight that will come to retrieve them from a successful deployment.”
“Part 4, “Antarctica Is In Charge”. Reunited, the full team deploys two GPS units which they hope will document the rapid movement of the PIG. Holland and Bindshadler explain the significance of their work, their recognition that weather and logistics dictate what any researcher can achieve here, and yet express their satisfaction at visiting places no human ever has before, and surmounting challenges in order to have a good shot at getting data needed for humans to figure out the future.”

The Lecture:
Lecture by Dr. Bindschadler, called “Waking Giants: Ice Sheets in a Warming World”, presented 2010 at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth in the Jones Seminar on Science, Technology, and Society. (The lecture is 55 min 30 sec, followed by Q&A),