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COP23 SOPHIE AND JAMES HANSEN

YOUNG PEOPLES BURDEN: AVERTING CLIMATE DISASTER

Moderator:
Stuart Scott
Host of Climate Matters

Panellists:
James Hansen

Adjunct Professor
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Columbia University

Former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Sophie Kivlehan
Plaintiff

Juliana vs USA

Dr. James Hansen and his granddaughter Sophie Kivlehan were guests at this side event entitled “YOUNG PEOPLES BURDEN: AVERTING CLIMATE DISASTER”. Sophie is one of the 23 youth plaintiffs in the landmark federal lawsuit Juliana v. US Government, which accuses the US Government of having known about the dangers of climate change for decades and having acted in a manner so as to further endanger current and future generations.

Let’s look at the data: 
All nations agreed to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 in the 25 years leading up to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol emissions increased 1.5 percent per year, but after the 1997 emissions continued to increase even faster than before. Emissions from mature economies stabilised but they had already stabilised by 1980.
There’s no indication that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol had any significant effect.
Emissions from developing countries developing world continued to increase as those countries try to raise their standards of living as they have every right to do. China’s emissions may be stabilizing now because they are becoming a mature economy and are trying to limit air pollution from coal. Because of these increasing greenhouse gases global temperature is rising. Today global temperature is more than 1 degree Celsius warmer than its pre-industrial level.
How high can we let temperature rise? 
Our best guide is the Earth’s history. In the Holocene, in the past 11,000 years, the period in which civilization developed, maximum temperature was only 1/2 of a degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial. Now temperature is far above pre-industrial Holocene. It is now close to that of the Eemian period 1120 thousand years ago, when sea level reached six to nine meters or twenty to thirty feet higher than today.
Why has temperature increased almost linearly since 1975?
Because earth is out of energy balance. More energy coming in than going out And earth stays out of balance because since 1975 we have kept adding gases that increase climate forcing, about 0.04 watts per meter squared every year. Which will be 4 watts in 100 years which is equivalent to doubled carbon dioxide and 3 degrees Celsius global warming, which would be enough to guarantee disastrous climate change and loss of all coastal cities. So IPCC defined a new scenario RCP 2.6, which we have shown is approximately
equivalent to reducing emissions 3% per year.
Such reduced emissions limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, if we
also extract at minimum 100 Giga tons of carbon from the air via improved
agricultural and forestry practices.
I’d like to just say that 1.4 watts per meter square doesn’t sound like much but
dr. Hansen has equated that in the past to approximately 400,000 Hiroshima sized nuclear bombs. The heat from that being set off every day 365 days per year. So that number of bombs is the energy imbalance of the planet 0.6 watts per meter squared.
Now let’s look carefully at what’s happening in the real world. 
We see that the real world. at the top of red line is diverging away from our CP 2.6 how important is this gap couldn’t we just extract some co2 from the air to close the gap sure the gap of point zero 1 3 watts per meter squared is exactly the reduction of climate forcing that occurs if we reduce atmospheric co2 by 1 part per million.
1 ppm co2 is 2 billion tons of carbon. However to reduce atmospheric co2 by 2
Giga tons we must extract 4 Giga tons of carbon from the air. Because of the equilibrium that exists between atmospheric co2, ocean co2 and soil and biosphere co2. The cost at an optimistic rate of 150 dollars per ton of carbon is 600 billion dollars. But 1.4 trillion dollars at 350 dollars per ton. This cost about a trillion dollars is for just one year and the gap is growing each year. Adults
claim that they’re doing something about climate, but look at what a mess they
leave for young people they are not slowing down the climate Freight chain
by one iota not by one bit.
25 years after the first Rio Earth Summit the words 12 year old Severn Suzuki spoke should still ring in the ears of government officials. But do our governments really hear about her concerns or do they care more about deals with the fossil fuel industry? Fears expressed by this young girl are coming true: species are disappearing; coral reefs are bleaching; their life is disappearing. Droughts become stronger and fires are raging; driving refugees and increasing conflict among people.  Storms become stronger and floods more devastating. Ice sheets are melting. We debate whether we will lose coastal cities in 150 years, 100 years, or 50 years. And adults wonder why young people have increased anxiety today.
Severn spoke directly to the delegates at Rio. A few of them sat up and took notice but how long did it affect their conscience? More important did it affect their government’s actions? No.
If I spoke before the delegates today I would feel the same fear and anger that she expressed and more, because I see the hypocrisy of our governments, of our leaders. In truth, for all their posturing, they have accomplished painfully little to avert the onset of catastrophic climate change.Money has been shown to be more important than their children’s future. I am afraid and I am angry at the problems that greedy and foolish adults have created, but just as Severn said: in my anger I am NOT blind. And in my fear I am not afraid to tell them all diplomats, negotiators, leaders of government banks and businesses, how I feel.
Adults you say you love us, but I challenge you to make your actions reflect your words without hesitation, without consideration of profit. Instead caring about what is most important: the lives of your children. If you continue to pursue selfish aims the results will be enormous suffering by your children.
And no amount of money will save even the wealthiest of children. Because money is at it’s root a fiction, and it will disappear rapidly in the world that you are leading us toward. I hope that you are listening and I thank you for letting these words into your heart.
However, I must also say that we young people must not rely on only the hopes that you might be listening. Young people are people and we have rights and we must fight for them.
Along with 20 other young people and my grandfather, I am a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by our children’s trust against President Trump and the United States government for violating our constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. We still live in a nation of laws and I believe that our courts will find in our favor and require a government to develop and carry out a plan to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
But will it be too late? And there is such a thing as being too late. I encourage more young people to stand up for their rights. Just a few days ago this group in Minnesota was granted intervener status as they fought to stop a new tar sands pipeline. These young people are standing up to fight on their own without money and without a lawyer. Meanwhile what are adults doing? Making money. Developing the dirtiest carbon on earth tar sands tar shale and hydro fracking. Leaving a mess for young people to clean up. And they even leave us the tab: a trillion dollars here and a trillion dollars there. Where can we find it?
We must fight for our rights now, before it is too late. Thank you for listening and supporting us.
Stuart Scott : “We can open it up to questions now, if there any questions. Thank You “
Marlowe Hood with Agence France-Presse: “Sophie, a question for you. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about your lawsuit, the basis of it? And what the status of it is right now?”
“Sure. This lawsuit is filed in 2015 against the federal government by an organization called our Children’s Trust, which is based in Oregon. What makes our case different from other environmental lawsuits, is our very strong constitutional basis. We talk about the concept of public trust, in the public trust doctrine, but we really have a strong tie to our Constitution.. saying that we are fighting for our right to life liberty and property, fifth Amendment rights. And so it’s very unprecedented as the judges in Eugene have said so far and it’s looking really great. The process is very slow, but it’s the best we can do.
Dr Hansen: “Yeah, we should say the Trump government has tried to slow this suit down by asking the Court of Appeals to intervene. And it is now being delayed because of that, but I think that will not last much more than a few weeks longer. But instead of the trial being in February, it may be delayed a few months because of that.
 
Alex Wyte him from the Thomson Reuters Foundation:“Could you tell me what you hope to achieve through the lawsuit?”
Sophie: “The main goal is to put pressure on the government. To have them realise that young people notice that they’re not doing their jobs and we’re not going to be quiet about it. No civil rights suit or civil rights issue in history has ever been solved without the pressure of the public behind it, so that’s the main goal. To show the government that that pressure is there. And then, once the lawsuit is successful the goal would be to have the government have to enforce an effective plan to reduce emissions at a at a safe level and then the courts would have to, unlike the Kyoto Protocol or our RCP two-point-six the courts would have to check back in with them and make sure that they’re committing.
Dr Hansen: ‘Yeah, the suit asked for the government to have a plan to reduce emissions at a rate that the science has specified. Which would, if followed globally, and if you extract co2 via improved agricultural and forestry practices to the tune of at the time we began the first lawsuit it required a hundred Giga tons extraction from the air. Well now, if you want to get back to three hundred and fifty parts per million by the end of this century, you would actually have to extract 150 instead of 100 Giga tons. So, it’s a very ambitious target to get back to what is estimated to be a safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
It’s an ambitious target, but that’s what the science tells us. And that’s what’s been ignored by the governments around the world. They just pretend that well, if we’re doing some things… That move in the right direction…. that maybe will solve the problem, but as we show it on our first slides: the emissions just keep going up.
If you’re going to solve the problem you actually have to get the emissions to go down. The courts cannot define a solution, but they can they can require the other branches of the government to report back that they’re doing their job. My expectation is that the only way you will actually solve that is by putting a price on carbon. Because otherwise limited actions simply don’t amount to that much.
Stuart Scott: “There’s also a value in this trial in that other countries, young people in other countries, may follow suit.  It’s hoped that that they will follow suit. We’re actually here to try to help lead that way to help break that ice a little bit. And there’s actually I believe a precedent in the Netherlands of the government, having been found doing an insufficient amount about climate change. So of course if we’re successful in the United States, it will be a very powerful message internationally.
Judy Sole, Cape Town TV and Mother Channel internet television:  ‘We had a report last year that the increasing heat has led to such a large war of water on the surface that the phytoplankton are dying and that at the present level of depletion of oxygen, because they’re not functioning properly their world would the sea would be unable to support life at the year 2030. Which brings the whole thing really much faster fort so that’s a 20 30 year peer reviewed study and I just wondered if there isn’t anything that you could use from such a such a study to put even more pressure even on judges.. who otherwise are going to take a long time wasting time when you haven’t got time we’ve got to be take action right now.
Stuart Scott: Judy, since that’s an offer of more data if you’d send that to me I’ll share it with dr. Hansen and Sophia
“Yeah, they’re of course many climate impacts that are already occurring and can be attributed to climate change, so the evidence is there. And our executive and legislative branches of the government have just failed to substantially respond to that. That’s why we’re trying to bring the courts into it, as the one branch of government that is less sensitive to fossil fuel money. Because it’s very clear that fossil fuel money is having a huge impact on on our government’s, not just in the United States, but clearly in the United States and as well as many other countries. So I think we have to get have to bring the judiciary in to this as he said, not only in the United States, but in other countries.
Stuart Scott: We have time for one more short question.
 
Andres Freitas from the Dominican Republic: It seems to me that the price on carbon seems to be the most pragmatic solution. To bring the real price on carbon, so that it will have a real effect. But should we be talking about taxing carbon? Shouldn’t we be talking first about subsidies that fossil fuel companies received? I believe it IMF recorded it at 5.3 trillion in 2015.
“Yeah, there are so many subsidies of fossil fuels that it’s very hard. We certainly should try to eliminate those, but you you have to have to do it in many different places where all these subsidies occur and it’s so much simpler to just have an across-the-board carbon fee, which then will just override those subsidies. If you allow that fee rate or tax rate to rise, it will just overwhelm the subsidies. So that may be a more practical solution, but you certainly should try to eliminate those subsidies.
 

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