By Robert Bradley Jr. — September 27, 2022
James Hansen is a mixed bag. In important areas, he speaks truth to power and is a thorn in the side of “magical thinking” wind-and-solar “environmentalists.”
But the blinders are on when it comes to climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases; market entrepreneurship for adaptation/resiliency; the benefits of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for Global Greening; and the positive effect of moderate warming for many people in many places of the world for most of the year.
Here are some examples of Hansen at his best:
- “Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.” (here)
- “Let’s be clear: the frequent comparison of the fossil fuel and tobacco industries is nonsense. Fossil fuels are a valuable energy source that has done yeomen service for humankind.” (here)
- “Fossil fuels provided the energy that today’s developed world employed to reach its current standard of living…. [I]f fossil fuels provide the only realistic available path to development and improved living standards, that path surely will be taken.” (here)
- “[The Paris Agreement is] a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.” (here)
- “The bad news: we approach the gas bag season – the next Conference of the Parties (COP26) is scheduled for November 1-12. Gas bag politicians … may have been honestly duped about the science and engineering, but many must be blatant hypocrites.” (here)
Most recently, Hansen has opined on different subjects, the best commentary of which follows.
Inflation Reduction Act (August 25, 2022)
- “In early 2009, shortly after Barack Obama took office, I entreated Senator John Kerry, Obama’s point person on climate policy, to pursue carbon fee-and-dividend. He responded sadly ‘I can’t get one vote for that.’ Instead, he had to allow … passages in the bill provided by special interests. That ‘Christmas tree’ bill didn’t pass, but the present one did under the pseudonym ‘Inflation Reduction Act’.”
- “It’s probably possible to find an economist or two defending the Christmas tree approach, with something like ‘that’s the way sausages are made.’ Hogwash. The fossil fuel industry is smiling all the way to the bank. Until we understand this, we are all Colonel Nicholson.”
- The [new climate legislation] will help reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, but the maximum impact will be a 15% reduction from 2005 emissions…. The remainder of the hoped-for 40-50% decrease in U.S. emissions since 2005 consists of the reduction that has already been achieved plus reduction that would have occurred in the absence of the climate bill.”
- “Much of the 15% [maximum reduction] is dubious, e.g., expectation of large-scale carbon capture and storage. Also, planned wind and solar expansion is likely to encounter public concern about the scale of the environmental footprint, and there will be opposition to expansion of transmission lines.”
- “Recent U.S. [CO2] emissions are about 14% of the global total, so the likely impact of the Christmas tree bill will be of the order of 1% of global emissions. This hardly warrants a euphoric response from young people, especially when they realize that the financing of the bill is largely being borrowed from them.”
President Biden’s Legacy (August 8, 2022)
- “The Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted by almost all nations after the 1992 Rio de Janeiro conference, professes agreement to avoid dangerous human-made climate change. Yet ensuing actions consist simply of pledges to try harder to reduce emissions. Failure of this approach is guaranteed….”
- “Most environmental groups lived in fairyland, never working with utility experts — who must keep the lights on — and not understanding that most nations will always give priority to their immediate development and economic well-being over the long-term global warming issue.”
June 2022 Temperature Update & The Bigger Picture (July 29, 2022)
- “The public understands that Washington has become a swamp of special interests. The public knows that, upon election, congress-people become elite, concerned about maintaining that status, and willing to accept money from special interests. In short, our government is corrupt.”
- “Special interests have more clout in Washington than a person who comes without money. I could give some amusing stories about coming without money, but I presume that you already understand Washington’s corruption.”
- “[T]he long-standing ‘wishful thinking’ approach to climate policy – ask each nation to try to reduce their emissions and hope that the global results will add up to a solution. And then ignore the blatant scientific data showing that this approach is not working and will not work.”
I fear that James Hansen is engaged in his own magical thinking. He warned in 2006:
We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.
Come ten years, he admitted that little-to-nothing had been done but suggested a radical retrogressive policy:
Contrary to the impression favored by governments, the corner has not been turned toward declining emissions and GHG amounts…. Negative CO2 emissions, i. e., extraction of CO2 from the air, is now required.”
Yet we were not out of time after all! Also in 2016:
The ponderous response of the climate system also means that we don’t need to instantaneously reduce GHG amounts. However, despite uncertainties about some climate processes, we know enough to say that the time scale on which we must begin to reduce atmospheric GHG amounts is measured in decades, not centuries…. [W]e must get the political processes moving now.
Unsettled climate science, unsettled climate scientist.