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.

-James Hansen, July 2006

Saving Earth is a century-time-scale problem. There will be significant overshoot of global temperature as well as overshoot of atmospheric greenhouse gas amounts. We are already into overshoot territory, but not very far as yet. This is no time to give up.

-James Hansen, June 2019

James Hansen sparked the climate alarm in 1988 and remains a leading policy activist today. But as the above two quotations attest, he shoots from the hip, exaggerating both the problem and the time frame to address it.

Hansen is quite unlike the hyper-arrogant John Holdren on one side and vitriolic Joe Romm on the other. He is a real scientist, although far too confident about his high-sensitivity estimate of the enhanced greenhouse effect on global climate.

But Hansen speaks truth to power on the futility of renewables as a substitute for mineral energies. He has even wondered if the environmental movement is net CO2 positive, their anti-nuclear activism more than offsetting their renewables push.

Hansen sees climate politics as “alligator shoe” lobbyists bribing the system. Cap-and-trade schemes are “a hidden regressive tax, benefiting the select few.”

The Kyoto Protocol was “doomed from the start.” The Paris climate accord is “a fraud really, a fake.” Hansen recently opined on both:

The ‘cap’ approach of the Kyoto and Paris agreements is doomed to failure. We cannot successfully beg each of 200 nations to reduce their emissions.

How about the so-called Green New Deal? Hansen in a debate rejected it as “nonsense.”

His straight talk has disrupted the Left environmentalists’ build-it-and-they-will-come (really, force-it-and-they-will-cope) narrative. “I am unhappy to publicize Hansen’s bleeding-edge climate policy analysis,” Joe Romm once complained, which “is mostly providing aid-and-comfort to the deniers and delayers.”

The Latest

Hansen’s “Saving Earth” (June 27) updates his thoughts about the problem and the solution. He remains a full-scale climate alarmist, seeing only red and not green from increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other GHGs. (His earlier views were more nuanced.)

To deep ecologists like Hansen, which includes the large majority of natural scientists in and outside of climatology, the natural environment is optimal and fragile. The human influence cannot be good. Government must solve the problem at any scale. But they are surprised again and again at the resiliency of man and ecosystems as time marches on.

Adaptation, in fact, is the wealth-is-health, free-market alternative to government-forced CO2 mitigation. A century of progress, enabled significantly by fossil fuels, is responsible for reducing climate-related deaths 95 percent.

Here is Hansen’s latest, mixing alarmist certainty with the reality of a losing war against pro-consumer, pro-taxpayer carbon-based energy.

  1. Alarmism

On the other hand, delayed [climate] response [to human forcing] also allows the possibility of [policy] actions to avert a globally catastrophic outcome. By ‘globally catastrophic outcome’ I refer to the threat that the planet could become ungovernable over the next several decades, if we do not fundamentally alter our energy systems.

  1. Mitigation Fail

The really bad news is that the annual growth of greenhouse gas climate forcing is not declining, it is accelerating! Accelerating growth is mainly from CO2, but methane (CH4) also contributes…. The real world is rapidly diverging from the RCP2.6 scenario … that keeps global warming at approximately 1.5°C.

  1. Geoengineering Fail

Let us look at the cost of CO2 extraction [from the atmosphere] …. In rounder numbers the annual cost of extracting CO2 is now about 2-4 trillion dollars, and rising. That is the annual cost. So we won’t do the extraction.

  1. Political Fail

A temperature ‘target’ approach is ineffectual. It has practically no impact on global emissions. A target approach is also used for emissions. Yes, a nation should track its emissions accurately, but targets cannot substitute for policy. Global emissions accelerated after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Political leaders are perpetrating a hoax. Faced with realization that we could hand young people a climate system running out of their control, political leaders took the easy way out. With the Paris Agreement in 2015 they changed the target for maximum global warming from 2°C to 1.5°C.

The public … voted in Barack (‘Planet in Peril’) Obama and Albert (‘Earth in the Balance’) Gore. The accomplishments by those Administrations in addressing climate change, to use a favorite phrase of my mother, ‘did not amount to a hill of beans’.

Emission targets will never overrule the desire of nations to raise their standards of living.


James Hansen is wed to catastrophic warming, wholly rejecting a benign, if not beneficial, lukewarming. This said, he is on point about the futility of wind power and solar power making a dent in CO2 emissions. And to his credit, he sees almost all of climate politics as grotesque.

Naively, Hansen sees the climate solution as “honest pricing of fossil fuels” (via a carbon tax) and “government support of breakthrough technologies, including clean energy research, development, demonstration and deployment programs.”

Assume perfect knowledge about the problem. Assume perfect government in the solution. Assume an unimaginable energy fix. Assume that self-sacrificial democracies will go carbon negative as energy reality marches on.

James Hansen is a serious scientist. But is he open to lower climate sensitivity estimates? Can he recognize the risks of climate policy to adaptation? He has 30 years invested in his climate views, but the impossible climate math cannot be held at bay much longer.

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