In a recent post at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, climate scientist (and mentor to Al Gore) James Hansen was characteristically frank about the uselessness of existing government policies, and also the disdain with which he holds the “consensus” contained in the IPCC reports. Although I disagree strongly with Hansen’s own views as to what should be done, it’s worth quoting him to show that our position here at IER has been quite defensible—even a hero of the climate alarmists agrees with us on these two key points.
Hansen Uses Potty Language to Describe California Climate Initiatives
A recurring theme in my posts on climate policies (e.g. here) is that state-level initiatives are utterly absurd, and show that their supporters are more interested in symbolic expansions of government power rather than dealing with an alleged threat. After all, if the supposed problem is global climate change, then how will “green” policies in Washington State matter?
Believe it or not, James Hansen totally agrees with me on this point. From his recent post, look at how he describes the most “progressive” and “green” of U.S. states, California:
It is difficult to get governors on the West Coast to understand the potential they have to impact global climate change via an appropriate policy, but that capping their emissions does very little.
It is almost an extension of the Hollywood starlet’s vow to use only one square of toilet paper (and extra soap, presumably) and drive a Tesla. Her actions and California capping emissions are nice, but they make it easier for others to burn the fossil fuels…
My frustration in making clear the need for an across-the-board carbon fee if we are to phase out fossil fuels must have boiled over when I described California’s cap-and-trade as “half-assed and half-baked” with Governor Brown in the front row of the audience. Well, it is half-assed, because it cannot yield an effective global agreement (it is necessary to argue individually with 200 nations; start with one, India, what is its cap?). It is half-baked, and will always be half-baked, because conservatives will never accept cap-and-tax. Californians may be willing and able to pay higher prices and receive no dividends, but most people won’t.
So although Hansen thinks the solution is to push for a (near) global, uniform tax (or “fee” as he euphemistically calls it) on emissions, he is on the same page with me when evaluating the usefulness of individual U.S. states enacting regulations to restrict emissions.
Told You So: The Interventionists Throw Out the “Settled Science” When Inconvenient
Another recurring theme of my blog posts is that the supposedly authoritative statements of the scientific “consensus”—namely the periodic reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC—do not justify the radical policy interventions of the most alarmist activists. For example, in this post I methodically walked through all three components of the latest IPCC report to show that a popular goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius would most likely cause more harms than benefits. To repeat, I didn’t go to the Heritage Foundation or Cato to get my numbers; I just quoted from the various IPCC sections, summarizing the results of the computer simulations that they decided to put in there.
So what do the climate activists do, faced with the knowledge that the ostensible experts when it comes to the impact on humans from a changing climate, produce models making it difficult to justify what they consider to be even “modest” climate goals? Why, they throw the IPCC report under the bus, of course. Here’s Hansen from his latest post:
It seems that [the 2015 climate conference in] Paris may produce little, mainly promises to try to reduce emissions. That is a prescription for a Kyoto II disaster.
The problem starts with the UN “science”, the claim that 2°C is the “dangerous” boundary. Actual science tells us no such thing. Physical science tells us that we are pushing dangerous already as we push above the Holocene climate range and that we need to reduce emissions as rapidly as practical. Economic science tells us that the implication is we must raise the price of carbon-based fuels across-the-board in a way that can readily be made near-global.
So the next time Internet bullies like Joe Romm say we have to stop denying the truth of IPCC reports because their every word has been “signed off on by every major government in the world,” we can safely refer to the authority of Al Gore’s mentor and former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, James Hansen, to reject the silliness of such empty statements.
To be sure, climate scientist and political activist James Hansen disagrees at a fundamental level with guys like me when it comes to what governments should do about the alleged impending disaster of human-caused climate change. However, his recent post inadvertently confirms two themes of my own work on this topic over the years. First, state-level initiatives are utterly useless against a global issue, and we should treat the proponents of such initiatives accordingly. Second, we can stop being bullied by activists who try to use the IPCC reports as a trump card; the honest interventionists realize these documents can’t support their desired agenda and so repudiate their validity.