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Edinburgh Medal Winner's Climate Predictions 30 Years On

By edg - Posted on 10 April 2012

NASA scientist James Hansen has been giving his Edinburgh Medal address tonight...more will be posted here from that later by Bill who is at the talk and presentation (EDIT read Bill's review).

Hansen is perhaps one of the best-known climate scientists in North America, where he is constantly under attack from the climate change denial lobby.

Hansen is credited with popularising the term "global warming" after he warned on the build-up of CO2 emissions in the late Eighties in testimony to Congress. He has decades of experience in the field of climate and the 70-year-old is at a time in life where he no longer feels the need to pussyfoot around the politics that many scientists are hamstrung by.

His TED address should be essential viewing for everyone - especially the younger generation who should know what they are up against (climate change will impact you more than anyone).

With sea level rises of 1 to 5 metres predicted, every coastal city is going to look very different by the end of this century.

If you are in any doubt about Hansen's record on climate change predictions, it's worth looking at how his predictions made three decades ago look now.

Science blog RealClimate compared Hansen's 1981 climate change predictions up to 2100, published in the journal Science, against the observed trends up to today. It reveals that Hansen's predictions actually understimated the warming trend.

RealClimate says: "To conclude, a projection from 1981 for rising temperatures in a major science journal, at a time that the temperature rise was not yet obvious in the observations, has been found to agree well with the observations since then, underestimating the observed trend by about 30%, and easily beating naive predictions of no-change or a linear continuation of trends."

With Hansen now predicting up to 18 feet sea rises by the end of the century and potential runaway climate change, let's hope he is being more "alarmist" as his critics like to call his warnings.

Unfortunately, his track record doesn't suggest that.

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It's not in the programme but Hansen will be a guest at Richard Wiseman (guest director of the Sci fest last year) guide to climate change: