Friday, February 17, 2006

Hansen Harangues -- Again

NASA’s Jim Hansen is flogging his theories again, this time with an article in the Independent (what’s the matter Jim — can’t get a respectable scientific journal to print your rants? The Independent? That’s really bottom-scraping…). The lead:

Greenland ice cap breaking up at twice the rate it was five years ago, says scientist Bush tried to gag

A satellite study of the Greenland ice cap shows that it is melting far faster than scientists had feared - twice as much ice is going into the sea as it was five years ago. The implications for rising sea levels - and climate change - could be dramatic.

Yet, a few weeks ago, when I - a Nasa climate scientist - tried to talk to the media about these issues following a lecture I had given calling for prompt reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, the Nasa public affairs team - staffed by political appointees from the Bush administration - tried to stop me doing so. I was not happy with that, and I ignored the restrictions. The first line of Nasa’s mission is to understand and protect the planet.

Let me translate that for you: NASA told him to shut up about the connection between greenhouse gas emission and global warming for two reasons: (1) that connection has not been proven, and there is no consensus in the scientific community on the question, and (2) the entire notion global warming itself has not been proven. While it is certainly true that in the past century the earth’s average temperature has increased, it’s done the same thing many times in the past (long before humans were around). We just don’t know yet whether our recent warming is another transient effect, as in the past, or if it really is something mankind is doing. The most recent findings I’ve read cast a lot of doubt on the “we’re killing ourselves” theory — especially the unexpected finding that forests are emitting the majority of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Oops. And thank you, NASA, for attempting to muzzle this dangerous nutcase.

But Jim Hansen is a “true believer”. He’s got religion, and he’s had it for a long time. Like Jimmy Swaggart’s fundamentalist Christian schtick, Jimmy Hansen’s “global warming religion” and schtick has brought him fame and fortune. For a flavor of his publications, check out this list. And just in case you think I might be the only one questioning Jim Hansen’s objectivity on the issue, look here, here, and here.

I don’t usually get all fired up over a dispute in science — they’re generally more interesting than they are alarming. But this man wants to change our lives in ways that I certainly am not interested in. He wants us to drastically change our lifestyles (especially in reducing our commuting and travel, to reduce oil consumption) and to increases our taxes (to pay for greenhouse gas reduction). If — and that’s a very, very big if — I believed that the case had actually been made for global warming’s existence, for mankind’s activities causing global warming, and for the proposed remediation efforts “fixing” global warming, then I would actively support this program. But not one of those three requirements has been met — and to undertake civilization-changing efforts like the ones Jim Hansen promotes on the basis of speculation is sheer folly. Ol' Jim-boy though, would make out just fine in such a scenario — he’d be the de facto “religious” and intellectual leader. Kind of like that Jim Jones fellow a few years ago, except Jim Hansen’s “flock” would be the whole world, and he’d likely to be able to fool them for all his natural years. Scary prospect…

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