A former NASA scientist who first brought up concerns about global warming as far back as the 1980s has pronounced that that exploitation of oil and gas trapped in shale and tar sands could easily render climate change "unsolvable."
The scientist, James Hansen, told a panel of lawmakers in the United Kingdom on Thursday, May 16 that traditional oil, gas and coal reserves already contain a "dangerous" amount of embedded carbon that, if burned, would have a very real potential of increasing the planet's overall temperature more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Age some three centuries ago.
"The potential amount of carbon in these unconventional resources is huge," Hansen said to the Environmental Audit Committee as relayed by Bloomberg. "If we introduce the tar shale and the tar sands as a source and exploit those resources to a significant extent, then the problem becomes unsolvable."
Hansen's dire warning comes at an integral time, as the U.S. is currently weighing options about measures that could very well affect the market viz. oil from Canadian tar sands. President Barack Obama is right now deliberating over whether or not to approve TransCanada Corp. (TRP)'s Keystone XL pipeline, which would connect Canada's tar sands to the Gulf Coast's oil refineries.
EU members are meanwhile ambivalent about the notion of demarcating tar sand oil as more polluting than conventional crude oil.
"We know we're going to get more oil out of these conventional sources," Hansen, who is now a professor at New York's Columbia University, said. "If we also introduce the unconventional ones, there is no solution other than geo-engineering."
By "geo-engineering," Hansen is referring to measures that might be employed to artificially change the climate.
Hansen, 72, who only this year retired as head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, first spoke to Congress about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere more rapidly changing the climate back in 1988 and wrote a paper on the subject as far back as 1981.
The scientist believes that the U.N.'s attempt at reaching some modicum of consensus among all nations in order to combat climate change "doesn't have a chance of being effective" and that instead a "carbon tax" should be imposed.
"We need to put an honest price on carbon-based fuels which pays their cost to society," Hansen said, adding that even many Republican leaders who have traditionally fought measures with the potential to fight climate change are coming around to the concept of a tax on fossil fuels.
"It's going to take more convincing," Hansen said. "I wouldn't say it's in any way a majority of conservatives yet."
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