A former NASA climate scientist is urging a full-court press against the fossil fuel industry to get the hundreds of trillions of dollars necessary for the next generation to combat global warming.
James Hansen is releasing a study Tuesday that looks at global temperature rise over the next few decades and what it will cost the younger generation to pay to reduce the warming trend that many scientists say is caused by fossil fuel use.
"Despite widespread recognition of the risks posed by climate change, global fossil fuel emissions continue at a high rate that tends to make these [emission reduction] targets increasingly improbable," the study said.
The report said the rate of temperature change due to higher levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels has increased by 20 percent in the last decade, "thus making it increasingly difficult to achieve targets such as limiting global warming to [an increase of] 1.5 degrees Celsius," the target agreed to by almost 200 countries in the Paris Agreement.
Hansen concludes from the findings that the younger generation, which will not have sufficient revenue to combat that kind of rapid warming, must turn to the courts to sue for the trillions of dollars that will be required to tackle it effectively and quickly.
Hansen said a growing number of legal cases over climate change are being filed worldwide, with the argument growing that a hospitable environment is a basic human right that the fossil fuel industry has infringed upon and now must pay to remedy.
He said it is time for these lawsuits to "start extracting money from the fossil fuel industry ... to fund activities" meant to cut greenhouse gas emission and curb the rise in global temperatures.
"Even optimistic assumptions" show the cost will be in the "100s of trillions of dollars," he told reporters. Hansen said it is not clear if the next generation "will have the ability to take such actions."
But it's more than a climate call to arms. Hansen is offering an indictment of Congress and the executive branch, saying the only incorruptible branch left is the judicial branch.
It is "essential" that the third branch of government, "the courts ... get involved in the climate argument," he said, adding that the courts are less likely to be influenced by third parties.
He also said that the Paris climate change deal and President Obama's climate agenda are virtually toothless, with no real way of paying for the technological changes required to meet the challenges presented by global warming.
Hansen said the Paris Agreement doesn't do much more than the Kyoto Protocol, United Nations' original climate conference from 20 years ago.
That's why the courts need to get involved, he said, with the executive and legislative branches not doing much to influence the fossil industry to take action, to invest in research, or to pay a tax for the emissions they produce.
His study comes as the European Union is expected to ratify the Paris accord as soon as Tuesday. Europe's ratification of the agreement will mean the deal, which is nonbinding, will be able to take effect in about a month.