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… according to James E. Hansen, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

The Washington Post reports that Hansen last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record,
surpassing 1998. Earth’s average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree
Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of
about 4 degrees over the next century would ‘imply changes that
constitute practically a different planet.’

Here’s their lead:

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to
warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is
progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to
slow or reverse the trend.

This ‘tipping point’ scenario has
begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and
abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries
need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.
While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many
say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions
in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that
would be irreversible.

And this sober reminder:

Some scientists, including President Bush’s chief science adviser, John
H. Marburger III, emphasize there is still much uncertainty about when
abrupt global warming might occur.

Well, there’s actually fairly little uncertainty, based on the international scientific consensus and the data I’ve seen. But even granting uncertainty: planning for potential disruption is always a function of both the likelihood and the impact of a potential future event; how much ‘certainty’ do we need when the scale of potential risk is so enormous.

Business executives make decisions in the face of uncertainty every day. Call it contingency planning, probabilistic preparedness, not putting all your eggs in one basket; it makes sense to invest a portion of your resources in building readiness for possible disruptive futures — especially when, as in the case of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation, the near-term economics are so good as well.

As I told the AHC Group ‘Shareholder Value’ workshop last week, there are only three reasons for not pursuing an energy efficiency / oil end game strategy:
1. you think it’s too expensive (in which case you’re doing it wrong);
2. you’re convinced the risks — both climatological and financial — are so minor they can be ignored (in which case you may be violating your fiduciary duty); or
3. you’re too closely tied to the fossil fuels industry.

Speaking of ‘closely tied to the fossil fuels industry’ : President Bush, in his State of the Union address, calls for ending the US “addiction to oil”! Surprising? Yes. Good news? I’m going to suspend judgement until I read the details.

(By the way, the NY Times reports that [Hansen] says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming…. Hansen said he will ignore the restrictions.