The man who introduced us to climate change has issued a dire warning about sea levels in New York.

In 1988, James Hansen told Congress that climate change is real. Now, his new paper spells out why it's much worse than what we thought.

If anyone knows climate change, it's James Hansen.

The former NASA scientist gained credit for forging wide awareness of the issue when, in 1988, he told Congress "the evidence is pretty strong" that human-caused global warming is — well — a thing.


Hansen testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2014. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Hansen, who now works at Columbia University's Earth Institute, has a history of being ahead of the curve when it comes to climate science. So you can imagine why a new paper he's set to publish this week alongside 16 other researchers is causing quite the stir.

Hansen's new research claims sea levels could rise about 7 feet higher than other estimates throughout the next 85 years.

As we know, higher temperatures caused by increased global greenhouse gas emissions is melting ice near the Earth's poles. That means higher sea levels.

In his new paper, which will be published in the peer-reviewed Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry journal, Hansen claims that — unless humans start emitting way fewer greenhouse gases, like, nowice at the poles will melt at exponentially faster rates than currently predicted.

The IPCC, the U.N.'s panel focused on climate change, predicts sea levels to rise about 3 feet by 2100. That figure's already alarming scientists. Hansen's new research, however, predicts it'll be more like 10 feet.

A sea level 10 feet higher would make coastal cities like New York, London, and Shanghai completely uninhabitable.

Aerial photo of New York City by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

It's sort of difficult to overstate how big of a deal that is. Not only would this affect millions of people, several trillion dollars worth of infrastructure could be destroyed.

“Parts of [coastal cities] would still be sticking above the water," Hansen said. “But you couldn't live there."

The year 2100 ... some of us could still be alive!

The discrepancy between Hansen's figures and the U.N.'s largely comes down to melting freshwater ice as opposed to melting saltwater ice.

Hansen's research claims that when freshwater ice on land (and not saltwater icebergs) melts into the oceans near places like Greenland and Antarctica, the colder freshwater traps the warmer, saltier water below. This trapped, warmer water causes further melting below the surface — a process that only increases the amount of additional water being added to our oceans as more freshwater ice melts into the sea.

Scientists have claimed that limiting global climate change to 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) could protect the Earth from devastatingly high sea levels. But the trapped warmer seawater is increasing the melting process quicker than expected, according to Hansen, so that 2 degrees Celsius figure won't cut it.

The IPCC doesn't consider this freshwater effect in its projections. Hansen says there's evidence it's already happening.


Greenland's disappearing glaciers have become alarming symbols of a warming planet. Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.

But before you panic! Don't worry. There are reasons to be hopeful we can prevent the worst that global warming has in store.

After all, combating climate change is no longer on the world's back burner (global warming pun unintended).

Ahead of the the United Nations' climate summit in New York City back in September 2014, more than 400,000 people took to the streets to show world leaders that curbing climate change needs to be a priority.

And government bodies are listening. The U.S. and China, for example, reached a historic agreement just months after the climate march that will cut each country's coal consumption way back in the years to come. So far, China is taking the commitment seriously.

This will result in significantly less greenhouse gas emitted by two of the largest nations contributing to global warming.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Hansen agrees: We still hold the fate of our planet in our hands when it comes to climate change.

He said we “could actually come in well under 2 degrees if we make the price of fossil fuels honest." That means taxing fossil fuel-burning businesses and governments, which will encourage eco-friendlier practices.

Even with his latest research painting a dire future ahead, if Hansen believes we can make a meaningful difference in the decades to come, we all should.

But we have to act big, and we have to act now.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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