Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Swift Boat on the Climate Sea

James Hansen, Head of NASA/GISS, has been in the news lately. He has been on just about every blog you can name also after Andrew Revkin in the NY Times wrote about how some Jr. Bush ranger in the Public Affairs Office at NASA/HQ has been trying to control what Hansen says.

Our friends, the Pielkes are also interested. Jr. is all for letting him speak, after all

3. Jim Hansen’s statements about “policy” are really just political exhortations, and not really about policy in any significant degree. The climate issue is in gridlock and it is inconceivable that (yet another) prominent scientist witnessing to his political values is going to change these dynamics, even if it offers some short term discomfort for the Bush Administration.

4. Jim Hansen’s statements had their 15 minutes of attention and were largely old news – the Bush Administration has turned a non-story into renewed focus on their approach to climate.

Hansen is old hat and not RP Jr., so what does he have to say, while Sr. just wants to give Hansen the third degree.

Still, you don't get to be director of a NASA lab without having some sharp elbows and infighting skill, as a certain Jr. Bush ranger is discovering, and Hansen is a subtle and smart character to boot. His letter in the Jan. 27th issue of Science is a different take on climate change policy and science which deserves careful thought:
The quote credited to me in the random samples item "Ice ages as history" (23 Dec. 2005, p. 1900) ("Anthropogenic climate change will basically produce another planet .…Earth won't have another ice age until humans go extinct.") was constructed from two statements that I made at the 6 December 2005 meeting of the American Geophysical Union: "business-as-usual scenarios will produce basically another planet" and "another ice age cannot occur unless humans become extinct."

The printed construction provides no hint of my conclusion that large climate change can be avoided via a scenario that includes action to improve energy efficiency and reduce non-CO2 climate forcings. These actions require strong policy leadership and international cooperation, but they have multiple practical benefits for the environment, human health, and economic development.

I suggest (my talk is available at www.columbia.edu/~jeh1) that special interests have been a roadblock to this end, wielding undue influence over policy-makers. The public has the power to override special interests, but scientists need to communicate the full climate story to the public in a credible, understandable fashion.

I f you have not yet read the talk, go do so.

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