Kiss many of the world’s most populous cities good-bye.

In what may prove to be a turning point for political action on climate change, a breathtaking new study casts extreme doubt about the near-term stability of global sea levels.

The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, brings new importance to a feedback loop in the ocean near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate. Hansen, who is known for being alarmist and also right, acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates. In a conference call with reporters, he said he hoped the new findings would be “substantially more persuasive than anything previously published.” I certainly find them to be. . . .

. . . The implications are mindboggling: In the study’s likely scenario, New York City—and every other coastal city on the planet—may only have a few more decades of habitability left.  [Perhaps rendering the world ungovernable.] That dire prediction, in Hansen’s view, requires “emergency cooperation among nations.”

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Some take comfort in assurances from the Republicans chosen to chair the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works and the House Committee On Science, Space, and Technology that this is all a hoax.  But NASA actually sent a spaceship to Pluto — with precision equivalent to getting a hole-in-one when the tee is in New York and the hole is in Los Angeles — which is considerably more compelling, I think, than anything James Inhofe and Lamar Smith have ever done — so when NASA’s former lead climate scientist weighs in, perhaps mankind should listen.  At least until we hear what Donald Trump and Dick Cheney have to say.

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