Defusing the Global Warming Time Bomb; March 2004; Scientific American Magazine; by James Hansen; 10 Page(s)
A paradox in the notion of human-made global warming became strikingly apparent to me one summer afternoon in 1976 on Jones Beach, Long Island. Arriving at midday, my wife, son and I found a spot near the water to avoid the scorching hot sand. As the sun sank in the late afternoon, a brisk wind from the ocean whipped up whitecaps. My son and I had goose bumps as we ran along the foamy shoreline and watched the churning waves.
That same summer Andy Lacis and I, along with other colleagues at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, had estimated the effects of greenhouse gases on climate. It was well known by then that human-made greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), were accumulating in the atmosphere. These gases are a climate "forcing," a perturbation imposed on the energy budget of the planet. Like a blanket, they absorb infrared (heat) radiation that would otherwise escape from the earth's surface and atmosphere to space.