"[I]f we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide – coal – it will be practical to bring carbon dioxide back" to 350 parts per million, Hansen said – "lower still if we improve agriculture and forestry practices, increasing carbon storage in trees and soil". Carbon levels stand at 385 ppm today and increase by about 2 ppm annually. Coal, Hansen added, is "not only the largest fossil-fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel", polluting oceans and streams with mercury, arsenic and other toxins.
Hansen named Britain, the United States and Germany – in that order – as "the three countries most responsible, per capita, for filling the air with carbon dioxide". He noted: "The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on ‘clean coal’ or that they will build power plants that are ‘capture-ready’ in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants."
Government leaders, he said, have the best scientific organisations in the world at their disposal — and the scientific findings have crystallised in the past few years, "revealing the urgency". Wrote Hansen: "Our planet is in peril. If we do not change course, we’ll hand our children a situation that is out of their control."
See full story