By James Hansen: As I peer through Beijing’s impenetrable smog I feel nauseous. I have long been troubled by the injustice of human – made climate change to our children and grandchildren, which may soon constitute a tragedy of epic proportions. Now I stare in the face of another tragedy. Air pollution from coal kills over 1,000,000 people per year in China. Life expectancy in North China is reduced at least five years, and t h os e living suffer many health effects.
One scientist told me that he was using his savings to send his child out of the country, to grow for a while in clean air. What makes me sick is the realization that climate change and air pollution were both preventable. Thus they are true human – made tragedies. And I know that we in the West bear a moral burden. We scientists have special responsibility. We had knowledge 25 years ago that should have allowed climate change and air pollution to be manageable problems, not tragedies. However, we failed to communicate the implications well enough with political leaders and we did not achieve effective action. We must try harder now , because it is still possible to minimize the climate change effects and it is possible to solve the air pollution problem.
Hundreds of millions of refugees will be driven from coastal regions and island nations. A large fraction of the world’ s species will be exterminated by shifting climate zones that amplify other human – made stresses. Summer heat waves, droughts and fires will be more extreme. Rain, when and where it occurs, will be heavier and floods will be more devastating. Storms will be stronger.