James Hansen's Warning to the G8: We've Exceeded Safe C02 Levels

07/15/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

On the eve the annual G8 Summit, where NASA's Dr. James Hansen announced that we've exceeded safe C02 levels (safe being maximum 350 ppm; we're now at 385 ppm), Hansen penned a comprehensive letter (PDF) to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, host of the G8 Summit, requesting his leadership in addressing his findings:

Dear Prime Minister [Fukuda],

Your leadership, and continued leadership by Japan, is needed on the matter of climate change, a matter with ramifications for life on our planet, including all species. Prospects for today's children, and especially the world's poor, hinge upon success in stabilizing climate. ~snip~

The past approach, and extensions now under discussion, are fatally flawed and would doom our children and grandchildren to an increasingly impoverished life on a more desolate planet. Clear thinking and bold leadership of the international community are essential in the next 1-2 years to change the course of human history.

The letter, which includes extensive supporting data, opens with current climate status: the loss of sea ice, the approaching tipping points, the effects on people and wildlife, the unstoppable sea level rise, shifting of climate zones, species extinctions, loss of glaciers, water supply for hundreds of millions, droughts and forest fires, rains and floods, intensified thunderstorms, tornadoes and tropical storms.

My address tomorrow to the United Nations University G8 Symposium summarizes scientific data revealing that the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million), and is likely less than that. Implications for energy policy are profound, as atmospheric CO2 is already 385 ppm.

Hansen goes on to write that "basic fossil fuel facts must be acknowledged" to minimize the impact of climate change.

Dr. Hansen's full letter is here (PDF):

More on this topic at THE ENVIRONMENTALIST