Hansen in the New York Times

Update (Jan 30 6pm): Rep. Boehlert, chairman of the House Science Committee has weighed in.

Update (Feb 4): Hansen is interviewed at length on NPR’s “On point”.

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105 comments on this post.
  1. Robert Simmon:

    From the Post Article:

    John R. Christy, director of the Earth Science System Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, … “Whatever happens, we will adapt to it,” Christy said.

    Somewhat rhetorical, but why is it assumed (by contrarians) that “adpating” will in any way be easy? And why is reducing fossil fuel consumption not considered a means of adaptation?

  2. Tim Jones:

    Do we condone atavistic flat world dictatorial policies by the current administration regarding which science we can access and which we cannot? James Hansen is to be commended for resisting special interests’ attempts to obfuscate the truth.

  3. Arthur Coulston:

    One thing I could not help but notice was that the NASA webpage about the 2005 temps makes no mention of any potential causes for the warming trend. Despite going into some depth about the severity of the warming, any mention of a cause or potential cause is glaringly obvious. In fact the last sentence of the article makes a vague and misleading reference to urban heat island effect…

    the largest annual and seasonal warmings have occurred in Alaska, Siberia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Most ocean areas have warmed. Because these areas are remote and far away from major cities, it is clear to climatologists that the warming is not due to the influence of pollution from urban areas.

    Seeing as how most of the public does not really differentiate between “pollution” and “emissions” NASA may as well be saying that it’s climatologists don’t think that GHG emissions could be connected to the temperature trends and that CO2 emissions only have a local impact on climate. NASA’s PR department is not just preventing its scientists from talking about their work; it is misrepresenting their work. Once you get to the GISS website there is mention of Green House Gas emmisions but not on the main NASA site. It makes me sad.

  4. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Yes, it would be horrible and unthinkable that any of you would have to *PERSONALLY* change your lifestyles to accomodate your results, let alone the *GOVERNMENT* or any of its agencies. Oh … the horror.

  5. Tim Jones:

    In comment #127 Robert wrote:

    “The forcing by solar activity would be most prominent nearer the equator, where we are seeing the results.”
    Perhaps. Do you mean the recent spate of monster hurricanes is a result of solar forcing? But this is just weather I hear the climate
    skeptics howl. The trends observed for a warmer climate are most exemplified at high latitudes,not nearer the equator.
    If solar activity is a primary forcing, but “geometry and albedo effects would reduce the effects of solar activity nearer the poles,” as Robert writes, then why are temperatures rising comparatively higher in high latitudes than near the equator?

    Robert wrote: “The effects of CO2 are simply overwhelmed by the “noise” of other effects in the system.”

    This is so true. The signal to noise ratio seen in RC comment seems to be weighted toward a noisy litany of misleading and half baked attempts to cherry pick the science with the intent to preponderate with a view slanted toward denying the profound effects of trace gases on climate.

    I’m not buying it, and I don’t have a dog in the fight.

    On another note:

    The temperature at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas rose to a high of 81º today. The temperature at Austin/Bergstrom International Airport, a bit outside of the heat island effect of Austin – rose to 82 ºF.

    Nothing unusual this year… But this is just weather, too. Texas isn’t having winter this year. We’re having record breaking heat almost every time we turn on the TV. This wouldn’t be so bad except for the drought and the fires.

  6. John Sully:

    Tim, you want to talk about Texas not having a winter? I live in SW Montana and we have had one week of what we would call “cold weather”. Here in town we have almost no snow on the ground. I will not be putting on my snow tires this year.

    However, NOAA got the climatological prediction right. Early cold and precip, late warmth. Normal precip all winter. Depending on the station we are a bit above, or a bit below normal at this point. Long timers here (and even I) are feaked out… No real cold by now, no snow on the ground (much more in the montains…) this is weird. Most people in the upper midwest are similarly confused.

    But hey, this is just weather — about the 10th year of weird weather in a row. But it is just weather. When does weather stop being weather and start being climate? Is a ten year drought enough? Eventually, you have to go… “hmmm, the climate seems to be changing”.

  7. Timothy:

    There are lots of reasons that adaptation would be ‘easier’, although this is straying into political discussion…

    Firstly, it would be done later and therefore we wouldn’t have to pay for it now.

    Secondly, most likely you would not have ‘global’ adaptation, but the rich would pay for their own adaptation and the poor… I guess they’ll get to be on TV! This makes adaptation cheaper, because it would only be partial.

    Thirdly, and most scientifically, it has to be said that the impacts side of climate science is its weakest. There is now a very high degree of certainty that there will be global mean warming of, ~0.5C over the next couple of decades and further warming with a climate sensitivity of ~3C. What this means for people’s lives is about as clear as mud.

    Most certainly there will be sea level rise, but even in a scenario that sees the melting of Greenland, it will take centuries for the sea level rise to occur. It’s hard to get people worked up about that. It seems likely that a warming world will change precipitation patterns that would severely disrupt agriculture, but… the models are pretty bad at precipitation so the certainty on the detail is very low.

    There is a lot of complacency on the side of contrarians. I’ve pointed out to people that a changing climate could result in problems for agriculture. I’ve then been told that the US has a huge grain surplus and they won’t have any problems. The point being that it is the current climate and rainfall patterns that enable US agriculture to exist. If the rainfall patterns change…

  8. Mauri Pelto:

    The most disquieting aspect of the oversight that NASA and NOAA want to have over communications of their scientists, is that we as fellow scientists, cannot know what is being left unsaid. I have heard from friends working at both agencies in the last two years, “I cannot say that”, in terms of attributing some observed loss in glacier volume or ice cover or snow cover to GW. Thus, when I read comments from some other portion of NOAA where I do not know anyone, such as the NHC, I wonder what is being left unsaid and how is that shaping the science going forward. How does it impact the specific conclusions and resulting investigations into the causes of the anomolous observations. Hansen is rare in my experience and must be commended for speaking directly and honestly even when it may not benefit his career.

  9. Steve LaBonne:

    What infuriates me is that we, the taxpayers, pay for the expertise of Dr. Hansen and his colleagues, and it seems to me that we are entititled to have full access to it. It is not a private resource to be controlled by politicians and their appointed hacks for their selfish political benefit.

  10. Tony Noerpel:

    re #1 and Christy. As an engineer, I find Christy’s statement amusing. There seems to be a presumption that adaptation will be easy when in fact neither Christy nor I know whether or not it is even possible. Our response to Katrina seems to be a half hearted attempt to repopulate a low-lying area without addressing the core problem and which will become increasingly difficult to defend against increasingly violent hurricanes and rising sea levels. It doesn’t seem like we are exhibiting, as a species, the adaptability for which we are so fond of attributing to ourselves. The money has not yet been allocated to upgrade the levees to withstand category 5 storms.

    The issue though is can humans survive when so many of our co-inhabitants are dying off. In the Future of Life, E. O. Wilson suggests 50% of species may be extinct in 95 years. There is lots of recent scientific literature which supports Wilson including articles about the state of phytoplankton and amphibians. Isn’t it a bit too sanguine to expect that we can survive if much of everything else dies off? Is it even theoretically possible for humans to survive in a world without bees, frogs, coral reefs, polar bears and phytoplankton?

  11. muirgeo:

    What I am curious to know is if there is direct pressure from the administration on the higher ups at NASA to “keep a lid” on people like Dr Hansen.

  12. Eachran:

    There is an article in The Guardian today about the instability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. I suspect that this is old information but I dont know. Certainly one of Mr Hansen’s suggestions was that the warming process is far more unpredictable for ice sheets than the cooling process. It doesnt take much of the southern ice sheet to detach to set the ball rolling. The article referred to a 5m rise in sea levels – I suppose it is anyone’s guess. I thought that the Greenland sheet was comparitively stable?

    Our political masters seem to be a bit short on leadership here : in the UK for example the Government is supporting a massive development on the river Thames in London. That should match the efforts in New Orleans.

    Timothy’s points about adaption and agriculture are spot on. I suspect that all the chiefs know that right now which is why multinational progress on anything has ground to a halt : except, that is, the “Red” campaign to encourage more conspicuous consumption which should help further deterioration. Life can be depressing sometimes but chins up everyone.

    As for post 4 on changing lifestyles, I started to do that three years ago – 50 years late but better late than never.

  13. Matt McIrvin:

    but even in a scenario that sees the melting of Greenland, it will take centuries for the sea level rise to occur.

    Hansen tried to address that in his presentation; he made the point that rationally speaking this is small comfort, since long before rising sea levels completely drown a city, incursions from storms would be a problem, and the inhabitants would have to keep rebuilding above a gradually rising water level. We’re not scot-free for 200 years and then, bam, the ocean rises up; the impact happens sooner than that, and surely there’s an economic toll along with the human toll.

    Though the devastation from Hurricane Katrina can’t be uniquely attributed to global warming, the aftermath of it might well serve as an object lesson to get this idea across.

  14. Pete Best:

    Looks like new scientist has got wind of this story.http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8650

    Looks like according to NS that the Bush Administration is attempting to gag Mr Hansen by ordering public affairs staff to review his forthcoming material inlcuding lectures, papers etc.

    IS this for real or are NS just getting the wrong end of the stick ?

  15. Pete Best:

    It also looks like the UK Government has released a climate change report today stating that we will be at 400 ppm in 10 years and as the EU sees a safe level of 450 ppm we will need to have cut CO2 emissions by 65 % within a decade in order to avoid levels of 450 ppm and over.

    Seem to me that the battle has been lost with human made climate change and that 20 years is far too little time to get our act together with regard to reducing GHC by sufficient amounts to avoid severe climate change with the possibility of worse non linear effects further down the line.

    It all appears to comedown to the tipping point and the phenomena of abrupt or sudden climate change. We all know that the climate is modelled as as fluid using navier stokes equations and that the climate is not linear but in fact non linear in nature which makes for far more interesting but unpredictable climate in the long run if certain parameters are pushed up.

    [Response: This might be worth a post in itself, but I think that Hansen’s point about there being only 10 years in which to start making changes is not directly related to the phenomena of abrupt climate change in the sense that you imply. Specifically, ice sheet melt and sea level rise could happen in a very regular and linear fashion and yet this could still constitute a ‘dangerous’ change. The time constants for the climate system, the ice sheet response and our energy infrastructure are all so long (decades plus) that any significant changes are effectively irreversible. This is quite different to some finely balanced feature that suddenly ‘tips’ into a new state. -gavin]

  16. Hank Roberts:

    Pete, New Scientist is quoting excerpts from the NYT article (as they say they are) and paraphrasing it. Nothing new there.

    The NYT article may be moving off their free page (right now, I see a headline linked to the NYT’s password prepaid-reading area).

    You can piece the original together by searching for comments quoting the article, and cross-checking the quotes should catch any errors in secondary sources. Maybe a cache somewhere still has the full article.

    Some excerpts with discussion are at:

    My excerpts are in response 102 in “Calculating the Greenhouse Effect”

    The URL posted there works at the moment:

    Read the whole; it’s a good test of honest editing, there’s enough in the original to cherry-pick excerpts that spin. Hansen et al. are clear writers; much of their work is available at the Columbia web page:

  17. Jack:

    Given the documented pressures on civil servant scientists, I’m glad that Gavin can participate here.

  18. Pete Best:

    We seem to have gone from mild repercussions of climate change to near fatal ones in some 20 odd years, no wonder the US administration cannot get a grip on the reality of climate change.

  19. Steve Bloom:

    Re #16: ClimateArk (linked in the right bar under Other Opinions) has a permanently archived news feed that caches all of these articles.

  20. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    James Hansen is a true hero of our time. It’s come to that; people who just say what they would have said under ordinary circumstances (without Big Brother breathing fire down their necks), who simply tell the scientific truth, are heroes now. We need a James Lovelock with Gaia’s Revenge here to underscore how mild and reasonable Hansen’s statements are. And then to show how mild and reasonable Lovelock is, throw in a bunch of environmentalists who follow the precautionary principle (the people who’ve been totally excluded from the CC deabte).

    Re #1, maybe the adaptation Christy is referring to is the terraforming of Mars, and its planned colony of 1,000 elitist Earthlings. Haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s another government secret. Only the top officials & their big biz financiers have sure seats on the spaceship. However, the PR people at NASA are going to be hopping mad when they find out they don’t have the seats they were promised.

  21. Hank Roberts:

    The inimitable Benny Peiser, at Prometheus:

    “Hansen is essentially accusing your government of causing human mass extinction due to negligence.
    “In … the Washington Post, Hansen claims that a rise of temperatures by 4 degrees F in the next 100 years would be fatal to the human race.
    “… playing the doomsday card …”

  22. pete best:

    Is it possible to censor science in this day and age. The results will be in the hands of many scientists and hence silencing one person (if this is indeed what it is) is not a viable thing to do. Because we are all discussing this very issue and we are also in possession of the results of the science to tells me that the US government and/or NASA have not suceeded in silencing Jim.

    Or are we referring to mass media only rather than the the few who read realclimate and newscientist. The BBC had a big climate science story today probably related to Jim’s work which can be found here.

  23. Alastair McDonald:

    Here is another item from the BBC. James Lovelock was one of today’s guests on ‘Start the Week’ You can hear what he has to say by clicking on ‘Listen again’

    Gavin, you have made an interesting point in your reply to #15 by Pete Best, where you point out that there are two types of tipping point. One is when you trigger a rapid climate change, the other is when you pass a point of no return (PoNR.) James Hansen is saying we will not reach the PoNR for another ten years, but we have already passed it. The Arctic ice is already retreating. Unless we cool the planet, because of the positive feedback from the ice albedo effect, then that ice will continue retreat until it has completely disappeared. The only way to get it to reform will be to cool the planet to a temperature below that of today, because at current temperatures the ice is melting. This is also now true for the Greenland ice, which is also starting to melt. So James Hansen’s ten years is just Pollyannaism. Thank you, James Annan for teaching me that new word :-)

  24. Gavin:

    A transcript of Jim Hansen’s appearance on CNN this morning can be found here:


  25. John:

    All of the proposed solutions for global warming involve lots of central control, failed economic policies and enforced poverty for everyone but the elite who are advocating the policies. No question the earth is warming, but two facts remain. First, there is no guarantee that even if greenhouse gas emissions were cut, that doing so would cool the planet. Second, the earth has been significantly warmer than now as recently as 5,000 years ago and man somehow managed to survive and even build the first civilizations. While I am not completely certain of how mankind will go through the potentially long and painful process of adapting to a warmer world, I have much more faith in man’s ability to adapt than I do in the socialism and enforced poverty advocated by those who claim to save us from global warming.

    [Response: High northern latitudes were warmer 5000 years ago (or even 9000 years ago) but the tropics were probably cooler, and in the mean the planet was probably not that different from now. The projected changes under ‘business-as-usual’ are much much larger than this. -gavin]

  26. greg lewis:

    Several decades ago the US government invested heavily in nuclear power. Was that socialism? Would a similar commitment to alternative energy be socialism?
    No one is arguing for enforced poverty or socialism.

    [Response: Especially not in this forum! -gavin]

  27. Pat Neuman:


    Photos I took at Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming in Oct 2003 show palm vegetation and fish fossils, indicating that very warm climate existed about 52 million years ago in the same lat. long. area as today. There was gradual cooling from 52 million years ago until just a couple million years ago when climate cooled more rapidly into the ice age. Much of the life we see today evolved over that 50 million year period of gradual cooling. Returning to a hot and steamy world too quickly would eliminate most life on earth. Vegetation would not have time to move to new areas or adapt to a much warmer climate. Vegetation would disappear. Earth would become like the other planets we see from our space adventuring, a barren planet. Photos from Fossil Butte can be viewed at:


  28. Willis Gooch:


    Living more sensibly within limits, i.e. as if the earth is neither infinite source nor sink, is “adapting.”

  29. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Re #25. I think the converse is more true. If we do nothing to mitigate GW, that will put us at more jeopardy falling under totalitarian authority and rationing. When people get scared, they tend to give up their freedoms to people who can make them feel safe. So the more dire our situation becomes from GW (food shortages, rampant mobs who’ve lost their home & jobs, etc), the more likely we will succumb to totalitarianism, or social chaos, or both.

    I’ve found that the typical American can reduce his/her GHGs by 1/2 or more cost effectively without loss in living standard, and that can improve and strengthen our economy if we all join in (see http://www.natcap.org for more inspiration on this).

    We need leadership to encourage us to become energy/resource efficient & conservative, and point the way to a wholesome path of gracious living in a healthy ecosystem. If that doesn’t work, maybe we need tax and other incentives. If that doesn’t work, maybe we need a bit tighter regulations.

    But think of regulations as being like innoculations against the greater disease of totalitarianism that will surely come if we continue down the path of energy/resource inefficiency, waste, global warming, and the many other problems associated with such profligacy.

    Waste not, want not.

  30. Stephen Berg:

    “Bush Wonders, What Has The Polar Bear Ever Done For Him?”:

    “By D.L. McCracken
    Nov 4, 2005, 12:26

    At a time when 58% of Americans believe that President George W. Bush lacks integrity, one would think that the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be bending over backwards to prove to his fellow citizens that ‘integrity’ is really his middle name. Not so however with this president who still has three more years to spread havoc throughout the world in his perpetual and oftentimes maniacal quest for world domination in the form of the liquid gold that he believes will bring his country to nirvana. The man who once stood tall and proudly declared himself to be the “war president” can now add another title to his ever-growing list of fait accomplis – the “plundering president”.



  31. The Post-Normal Times - Perspectives on Environmental Science and Policy Decisions:

    With us or against us
    I was going to follow-up on the last post with a few more comments about scientists taking policy positions but sometimes events and even scientists speak for themselves. So you have probably already seen or heard about the conflict between…

  32. jimmy walter:

    While the oceans are definitely heating up as reported by Nature in March 2004, the fact that the lower levels of the ocean are heating up first and faster puts into serious question that atmospheric heating could be the cause of these deep water temperature increases.
    Moreover, this heating of the oceans, whatever the cause, is causing them to release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and, far worse, water vapor. Water vapor is the most greenhouse of all the greenhouse gases with far greater effects than CO2, a fact that is almost universally ignored. The total amount of CO2 emitted by mankind is pitifully small by comparison. The increased water vapor causes the hurricanes and blizzards plaguing the world. All the ice ages and major extinctions have started with a dramatic increase in CO2, long before mankind had fire.
    While the official sites deny it claiming only an increase in reporting, some scientists are saying that there are unheard increases of volcanic and earthquake activity, especially underwater.



    It seems far more likely that volcanic activity and the natural ice age cycles are causing the current, temporary warming trend.

    [Response: Errr… there is no demonstrated rise in volcanic activity, the warming of the ocean is much larger near the surface, the KT impact event has nothing to do with rising CO2 today, natural ice age cycles would be leading to a cooling at the present if large enough to be noticeable, and water vapour is not ignored! -gavin]

  33. Pete Best:


    Sea ice melt and the like could happen in a linear fashion but seeing as how everyone talks about feedbacks in the climate system makes the system inhernetly non linear in nature does it not ? And that means that as feedbacks takes hold amplification takes place is the feedback is positive and dampens down the effects if negative. Now my presumption was that as the atmosphere warms due to increased CO2 emissions that this is indeed a positive feedback mechanism that can/will reach a threshold at some point and cause ever accelerating rates of melting over time which means that human made climate change will accelerate. I thought that in fact this is in part what we are witnessing in the world.

    When points of no return are spoken of you are really talking about irreversible processes whereas abrupt change is reversible?

    [Response: Obviously I’m not claiming that the system is linear (although global mean temperatures are roughly linear in the forcings), and feedbacks are obviously important. The point was more that there is a great deal of inertia in the system – particularly in the ice sheets and ocean, and so changing ‘course’ is a very slow business. Think about trying to steer a super-tanker away from a distant shoreline – you need to start early. Nothing is truly irreversible, but if it would take a few thousand years (or longer) to regrow a melted ice sheet, it is irreversible for all practical purposes. -gavin]

  34. Mark Shapiro:


    Thank you for the post. The NYT article provides serious evidence that our government is censoring and intimidating its own scientists. It was positively Orwellian, and worse, it was working.

    Reading Sherwood Boehlert’s (R-NY) letter to NASA telling them to back off was a breath of fresh air, and I appreciate your posting it. We are fortunate to have an advocate for openness and candor like Boehlert.

    [Response: Indeed. – gavin]

  35. W.F.:

    Read Andrew Revkin’s piece today – Hansen said publicly that he was going to vote for John Kerry. It seems to me, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, that making political statements as career, supposedly professional, Federal employee (i.e. in your capacity as such) is totally inappropriate. I for one will not pay attention to Hansen anymore. I had no idea he was being political. I can’t really fault NASA.

    [Response: It’s probably worth pointing out that even civil servants have a right to say who they will vote for. Actually, Hansen said he’d rather be voting for McCain, and this was said in the context of a personal statement and not as an endorsement. What Hansen’s voting record was, is however completely irrelevant to whether media requests to interview him on scientific topics should be blocked by public affairs. Oh, and by the way, comments from staffers working at the US Senate are given away by their IP address. -gavin]

  36. Pete Best:


    Yes indeed it is irreversible for all practical purposes. Changing course is indeed a allegedly slow business but climate scientists have consistantly got their sums wrong when it comes to the time it takes for warming to be causing a noticeable impact have they not. Have we not gone from mild projections/predictions in the late 80s and 90s to more extreme ones now as out knowledge, measurements and predictions have improved.

    One thing seems to be clear to me at any rate, the future predictions of climate change are getting worse for humankind and not better.

  37. Tim Jones:

    American Morning
    Aired January 30, 2006 – 08:00   ET

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.
    I’m Soledad O’Brien.
    M. O’BRIEN: We’re also going to talk to a NASA scientist who is an expert on global warming. There’s allegations that he is being censored by the Bush administration as he speaks out about the issue of global warming. We’ll talk to him about that.
    M. O’BRIEN: It’s a beautiful morning here in New York City. A little warmer than we’d like it to be.

    A question about science. Facts are facts, but when good science meets a political reality, a political agenda, what happens?

    A gag order, or so it is alleged, by a leading climate scientist at NASA. He says the Bush administration is trying to silence him because he is sounding alarm bells about the impact of climate change, global warming.

    James Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

    He joins us here this morning.

    Dr. Hansen, good to have you with us.


    Good to be here.

    M. O’BRIEN: Tell us what you said, first of all, scientifically.

    HANSEN: Scientifically I said we’re getting very close to a tipping point in our climate system. If we continue along a business as usual path with greenhouse gases increasing faster and faster, then it’s going to become impossible to avoid losing the Arctic, for example. Already the sea ice there is reduced 25 percent in the summer.

    Within a few decades, we may lose the sea ice there and, therefore, the ability for wildlife like polar bears, seals, reindeer, to survive.

    M. O’BRIEN: Let’s take a look at a couple of animations. These come from some of the models which have been put together to try to project global warming.

    The first one I want to show you shows what happened since about 1870 to present and then beyond. And, as you can see, blue is cooler. And as you move along here, the red portions are the places that become warmer.

    Projecting outward, as you see, we get into modern time now. This is the industrial age. And as you can see, over the industrial countries, you’ve got these splotches of red. And as time goes on, it becomes kind of a big red blob over this entire globe of ours.

    At this point, some would suggest it’s so far gone it cannot be stopped.

    HANSEN: No, I — that’s the point. It’s not too late to stop and avoid the worst consequences. But we would need to get on the scenario in which we slow down the rate of growth of greenhouse gases, get that to flatten out. And before the middle of the century, we’re going to have to be producing less and less carbon dioxide than we are now. M. O’BRIEN: And that’s not the way we’re going right now?

    HANSEN: That’s not the way we’re going now.

    M. O’BRIEN: Now, you have been told to be careful about what you say.

    Why don’t you explain what you heard from public affairs people at NASA in particular about the comments you made?

    HANSEN: Well, they were very unhappy about my presentation in December at the American Geophysical Union.

    M. O’BRIEN: Why?

    HANSEN: Well, I think because I’m connecting the dots, all the way from emissions to the future consequences and it’s — and it has — and I look at alternative scenarios, if we continue on this path or if we take other paths. And that is getting too close to policy, I guess.

    M. O’BRIEN: Well, but there really isn’t much of a scientific debate anymore. So when you talk among scientific peers, there is tremendous agreement that global warming is real and it is hastened by human action or inaction.

    HANSEN: Right.

    M. O’BRIEN: So really what this is, is about politics, isn’t it?

    HANSEN: Well, yes. I think there’s a big issue here, and that is the fact that the agencies, the public affairs offices at the agencies are staffed by political appointees. And that is affecting the ability to communicate with the public. So, for example — and it’s not just true in NASA.

    In NOAH, for example, the hurricanes last summer, there becomes an agency perspective rather — and you’re not free to speak your own ideas. You have to follow that perspective.

    M. O’BRIEN: So, in other words, if a scientist at NOAH said these storms are stronger, perhaps by virtue of the fact that the climate is changing, global warming…

    HANSEN: Exactly.

    M. O’BRIEN: … the administration will say no, you can’t say that.

    HANSEN: Yes (ph).

    M. O’BRIEN: Let me just — I want to inject this so we have the other side here, so to speak.

    Dean Acosta, who is NASA’s top public affairs official, who is a political appointee, by the way, he says this: “NASA is committed to open and full communications. Our policy, which is similar to that of any other federal agency, corporation or news organization, is that any NASA employee speaking on the record, issuing a press release or posting information on our Web site must coordinate such activities with the Office of Public Affairs, no exceptions.”

    Now, I’ve covered NASA for years. Whenever you book an interview, you have to go through public affairs. That’s not anything, I suppose that is out of the ordinary.

    What is different now, though, do you think?

    HANSEN: Well, for example, National Public Radio in Boston wanted me to do an interview. And they were told no, they needed to do the interview with someone at NASA headquarters. And then the interview didn’t occur, because they wanted to speak to the scientists, not somebody at NASA headquarters.

    M. O’BRIEN: Right.

    So sum it up here.

    Do you think that there continues to be pressure from the Bush administration not to say what scientists fully believe here about global warming?

    HANSEN: Well, I think that public affairs offices have probably, for a long time, been used by whatever party is in power. But it’s become much more intense in the current administration.

    M. O’BRIEN: James Hansen, who is one of the leading scientists on climate change. He works for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center — Goddard’s Institute for Space Studies, I should say, more accurately.

    Thank you for being with us.

    HANSEN: Thanks.

  38. Alastair McDonald:


    Re your reply to #33, you are missing the point. The Arctic sea ice does not have the inertia of the Greenland ice sheet or of the oceans, despite sharing characteristics of both. When it disappears the global albedo will change. It seems that over concentration on the effects of greenhouse gases has left the climate scientists blind to that danger.

    Moreover, the loss of the Artcic ice will be an irreversible effect because of its hysteresis. Once the sea ice has melted, temperatures will have to be lowered below those of today before it will reform. The sea ice there is causing the Arctic to be cooler because it acts like a continental surface. In other words, while it is there the Arctic climate tends to be cool like Antarctica. Without the sea ice, temperatures in the Arctic will rise well above those where ice can form.

    When are you and Jim Hansen going to face the truth, that it’s now too late to stop the Arctic sea ice melting, and to stop the subsequent rapid rise in temperature there and in the rest of the northern hemisphere? When are you going to stop this comforting political spin that there is still time?

    Cheers, Alastair.

    [Response: I agree only with your first point. Sea ice does not have that inertia, and if the world started to cool the sea ice would return in short order (5 to 10 years response time). Ice sheets are completely different beasts. -gavin]

  39. Roger Pielke, Jr.:

    Gavin- re: #35

    1) It is fair to ask what relevance James Hansen’s personal voting choices bear upon his science. Hansen is clearly trading on his scientific authority to make a poilitical point. Joe or Jane Doe won’t have their voting preferences written about in the NYT. By drawing on his scientific cache, he is politicizing science.

    2) I am disappointed by your extremely cheap shot outing someone who obviously expressed a desire to remain anonymous as a form of retribution for expressing a view that differs from yours. That is hardball (and unethical) politics in its purest form.

    [Response: Roger, you might want to ask what is ethical about political operatives pretending to be innocent members of the public. -gavin]

  40. Pat Neuman:

    Roger, re 39.

    1) I don’t agree with your reasoning that “Hansen is clearly trading on his scientific authority to make a poilitical point”.

    2) I don’t know who the person refered to as “anonymous” is.

  41. Alastair McDonald:

    Re Response #38: Agreed. Sea ice does not have that inertia, and if the world started to cool the sea ice would return in short order (5 to 10 years response time). Ice sheets are completely different beasts. -gavin]

    Nice of you to agree, but note that the sea ice will not return within 5 – 10 years of a cooling world. When the sea ice disappears the Arctic ocean becomes oceanic rather than sea ice. Therefore it will have the inertia of an ocean and be slow to refreeze. This is why loss of the sea ice should seen as effectively irreversible. Returning conditions to those of today, or even a hundred years ago will not return the sea ice to its current extent. See Brooks “Climate through the Ages.”

    Cheers, Alastair.

  42. W.F.:

    Well, I’ll say this Gavin…

    I am pleasantly surprised that you even allowed my post to appear given your penchant for censoring others who disagree with you and your views like Steve McIntyre. Thought I might’ve been in violation of Section 7 of your “comment policy.”


    [Response: Many people disagree with me and that’s fine (though they’re usually wrong!). However, I don’t think it’s too much to ask such people to remain courteous and refrain from ad homs, trolls, flames and assorted other abuse when doing so. I would also ask that people refrain from obvious political point scoring here – there are many other places on the web to do so. -gavin]

  43. Hank Roberts:

    Dr. Pielke, it’s only fair to warn someone posting from the Congressional computer system that the IP address is not a secret, the IP address is always available to anyone, and you can’t post anonymously from your office computer. There’s a big public stink about this just last week:


  44. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Re #30 and many subsequent posts — I think it is a serious mistake, whichever side you’re coming from, to try to turn this into yet another endless war between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives. There are good people, environmentally speaking, on both sides of the aisle. When an issue becomes one of the us-versus-them variety, the vast majority stop listening to anyone but the voices on their own side. That’s the worst thing we could do if we’re serious about wanting to influence people.

    The site ought to be solely about the science. Discussing policy approaches to fixing AGW is okay, but let’s refrain from comments attacking President Bush, James Hansen, Al Gore, etc. on a political basis. It’s counterproductive.

  45. J. Sperry:

    Re transcript in #37:
    In case anyone is confused (like I was), the M. O’BRIEN is Miles O’Brien, CNN Correspondent, not Soledad O’Brien, CNN Anchor.

  46. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 35

    It seems to me, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, that making political statements as career, supposedly professional, Federal employee (i.e. in your capacity as such) is totally inappropriate.

    I don’t recall seeing in the NYT article or any other that he made the Kerry remark in his official capacity; most commentators have noted that Hansen is careful to identify opinions as his own. A citation supporting that assertion would be helpful.

    I for one will not pay attention to Hansen anymore. I had no idea he was being political. I can’t really fault NASA.

    This strikes me as an overreaction. The Kerry remark is a pretty small bit of evidence to weigh against a scientific career, even if one has no independent ability to assess the science.

  47. Eachran:

    I dont really believe that one can depoliticise science. Science after all is a way of looking at and thinking about things and scientists clearly are not from Mars (or Venus) but inhabit the same world as the rest of us.

    I can understand Mr Hansen’s frustration : if the message is 1+1=2 with all the qualifications that scientists (or mathematicians) add and the response is ;

    Well look Mr Hansen this is all a bit embarassing because our current society is founded on the very activity that you are saying may drive humanity to extinction, look at it my way Mr Hansen for one minute, how can I possibly earn my post-Presidential/Prime Ministerial speaking fees ,reckoned by none other than Mr Clinton as in the millions of dollars, if I have to tell my potential audience that – sorry lads and lasses we are all heading over the cliff unless we sit down together and work out a survival plan. Now really Mr Hansen I did not spend a lifetime pushing economic growth and accepting donations from business people and others in return for preferential jobs and national honours to now deny it all. Be reasonable Mr Hansen please.

    You see, scientifically speaking it is just like that.

    Gavin, I dont know you but I admire your groups efforts and I am not generally into admiration. I particularly thank Mr Connelly for helping me through the understanding of the subject through Wikipedia : but now is not the time to withdraw into a scientific bubble : the bubble doesnt exist.

    A scientist’s response now might be : OK what do we do next world? It is absolutely no use expecting politicians to take the lead because they are unlikely to do that.

    There is a whole list of practical issues to deal with, not the least of which is how to deal with millions of displaced people. This is politics but not of the party political variety. And the lead time for implementing solutions is maybe of the order of 50 to 100 years.

    I know that the IPCC has as its remit the assessment of the impact of climate change but it is not the body to act : that is not its purpose.

    So what to do? Well I think we need to do something. I have read what Lynn (if I may address you in that way) has to say on the subject and frankly I am in agreement : the first thing is individual action (for me and Lynn and I guess for many others that is already done), the next is to find some international body which can push forward and coordinate change. All other political issues seem to me take second place. I have thought about how to go about this but I keep coming back to the WTO which has plenty of good people working there, is well established from an administrative and enforcement role point of view, understands the international community very well, can broker deals and currently is run by a very good bureaucrat Mr Lamy. They are wasting their time on “free trade” at the moment and I am sure that they would delight in helping us out of our nightmare.

    As for the person above complaining about breach of confidentiality : I have never known anything expressed in writing being capable of remaining hidden, source and all (so 0 out of ten for the complaints), and are we not living in the world of the web where democracy is all?

  48. Coby:

    To Roger in #39

    1) It is fair to ask what relevance James Hansen’s personal voting choices bear upon his science. Hansen is clearly trading on his scientific authority to make a poilitical point.

    I completely disagree that advocating the cessation of a dangerous policy is fairly characterized as making a political point. Indeed it can only serve to further obfuscate and politicize what is in fact a scientific issue. I have followed alot of the GW news and the science for well over a year now (note, I am not claiming that is very long or grants me any authority) and I have only in the last few days heard anything about Hansen’s political positions. What that says to me is that he does talk about the science and does so appropriately. This is personal anecdote to be sure, but if you have some references to support your, to my mind, very serious accusation against Hansen’s character I would be very interested to read them.

    Joe or Jane Doe won’t have their voting preferences written about in the NYT. By drawing on his scientific cache, he is politicizing science.

    Curiously enough, his politics seem to be governed by his scientific concerns rather than the recent (?) insinuations of the reverse. To whit, he would have voted for John McCain rather than John Kerry had he had that choice. He is clearly not a partisan and wants a government that will take the science and its warnings to heart, be it democrat or republican.

    2) I am disappointed by your extremely cheap shot outing someone who obviously expressed a desire to remain anonymous as a form of retribution for expressing a view that differs from yours. That is hardball (and unethical) politics in its purest form.

    Perhaps you can expand on why you think this? I for one, am very grateful to Gavin for having alerted me to this. Political operatives hiding behind anonimity have no right to expect this underhanded tactic to be defended. If this person was not posting in official capacity, then perhaps we have all got the wrong impression but this is his/her fault for doing so on tax payer funded equipment and presumably time.

    I might add the W.H.’s follow-up posting does not lend any strength to his/her defenders.

  49. Joel Shore:

    Re #44: Your point that there are good people on both sides of the aisle in regards to this and other environmental issues is made by the posting of Rep. Sherwood Boehlert’s letter. Boehlert is a Republican. Unfortunately, the good people don’t occur with equal concentration on both sides and Boehlert seems to be more the exception in his party than the rule which is unfortunate. On the other hand, it makes me respect him all the more for being willing to buck his more ignorant party leaders.

    Re #39: Roger, it is probably worth noting that while this person may now be “outed” to you policy wonks “in the know”, some of us don’t have lists of Congressional science policy staffers in our heads. So, it is not exactly a public outing…other than providing us with the knowledge that said person has some occupational connection to Congress.

  50. Lee:

    Given that latest UK report, it is clear to me that the only ethical thing to do is to fight tooth and nail for changes that will stop global climate change.

    Being indignant about “freedom of speech” is petty. It is time to put ego aside and declare war on people who are destroying the planet for all posterity.

    It sounds extreme, but the circumstances are extreme. Anything else is a disservice to our children.

  51. Eachran:

    I like the use of the word “indignant” in post 50.

    It just happens to be Dario Fo’s prospectus, “indignation” for political change in Italy. Whether you agree with the man’s politics or not it says a lot that one can still feel indignation about society’s issues.

    Perhaps we need more.

  52. Leonard Evens:

    About politics.

    Of course, every human activity has a political dimension, and the study of climate, because it may have policy consequences, is not an exception. But that doesn’t mean that the science, and conclusions drawn from it, can’t stand on their own. If a scientist working for the goernment believes that something is likely to happen, it is his duty to let the public know about it. On the other hand, I don’t think attitudes towards climate change and what should be done about it can be characterized as a Republican/Democrat issue. It is true that some powerful Republicans have allied themselves with the contrarian point of view to a greater or lesser degree. But several Republican senators have accepted the consensus position on climate change and see a need to do something about it. McCain is the primary example, but there are others, and Sherwood Boehlert, Chair of the House Science Committee, has the same view. Boehlert also challenged Inhofe in the Mann “investigation” affair. Several Republican governors, particularly in the Northeast, don’t differ from Democrats on this issue. While most Democrats are more inclined to support efforts to control emissions, some important parts of the Democratic coalition, e.g., elements of organized labor, are not so inclined. It is unfortunate that the current Bush, unlike his father, is toward the extreme end of the spectrum on this issue, but note that even he, in his first campaign supported relatively aggressive efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. It was only after he was elected that he changed his mind. to many of us, that was no surprise.

    About anonymous comments.

    I think it would be better if everyone were identified. It certainly helps me decide how much credence to put in an argument. For example, if a solar physicist expresses some contrary views, I will take that more seriously than if someone with no real bona-fides in climate studies, goes through an elaborate analysis with references and all that. Since I can’t become an expert in the details of the science myself, I tend to respect those who have subjected thair ideas to peer review rather than holding forth endlessly about this or that at a website.

    Finally, I find it highly implausible that a congressional operative who follows realclimate.org was unaware that Hansen had said he would vote for Kerry. It was widely reported, and it is the business of political operatives to know such things, particularly when they concern matters they have an interest in. It should also be noted that if Hansen prefers McCain, that makes him rather conservative in the specturm of American politics. McCain has differered from many of his colleagues on some important issues, but he is still rather conservative overall. Without further information, I would assume that Hansen tends to be conservative, in the American context, but made an exception in the last election because of his concern about climate change.

  53. per:

    Are we talking about Jim Hansen, whose forecasts have a track record ?
    This Jim Hansen ?


    [Response: Odd that you should bring up a decade-old slander which even Michaels has dismissed as ‘old news’. If you’d like the actual facts, try reading http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/hansen_re-crichton.pdf – gavin]

  54. Hank Roberts:

    RE IP addresses, I linked a newspaper yesterday. Below a primary source, Wikipedia’s Request For Comment — by users of Congressional IPs.


  55. Coby:

    Re #53

    Thanks for that, per. More clearly than any logical rebuttal ever could, that shows the weakness of the slurs against Hansen’s scientific credibility and the hypocrisy of those making insinuations about his integrity.

    Almost 18 yrs ago, Dr Hansen presents us with three possible projections of the future depending on fossil fuel emissions, one very pessimistic, one very optimistic and one middle of the road and most likely. Eight years ago, Patrick Michaels fraudulently presents only the most extreme scenario pretending it was the only one trying to show how wrong Hansen was even though he was right on the money. Today, the intervening 18 years have gone remarkably close to what was predicted by the middle of the road scenario.

    And perhaps even more remarkably, today that same fraud is still pushed by people who should know better.

  56. Steve Novak:

    Lest anyone think the topic of the present administration suppressing information from its scientists is new, please read the statements by the Union of Concerned Scientists issued in 2004 http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/interference/reports-scientific-integrity-in-policy-making.html.

  57. JohnLopresti:

    Try this link if you are looking for the NYT article and are a frequent visitor to the NYT site the NYT Revkin article.
    I am glad this matter came to light at RC here. The WaPo version was bland compared to the NYT, and had less refined scientific content.
    Our local paper published the WaPo article although the paper is owned by NYT.
    For several weeks I have tried some of the December 2005 AGU meeting links still online to locate the presentations about permafrost melt as a source of methane GHG; it was reported locally that discussion was a vibrant one, possibly proportionally as meaningful as Hansen’s talk and slides.

    Also I wonder if RC has discussed another GW topic which was in our local paper here regarding ocean floor methane hydrates which, the story goes, could provide fuel to the world for centuries if someone could mine them without releasing GHGs, a technology not yet developed; the article depicts deposits located 15 miles from LA under a shipping lane 2,600′ deep, a volcano byproduct.

  58. per:

    Dear Gavin
    I really don’t see where there is a “slander” in Michaels’ piece. Perhaps you could enlighten me ?

    I read your link to Hansen’s pdf. On the face of what Hansen says, he presented three simulations, which “bracket likely possibilities”. These three possibilities suggest a rise in temperature from 1990 to 2000 of ~0 to 0.3 C, versus an observed decrease of ~0.1C. Perhaps there is somewhere in the pdf where Hansen describes his scenario A as completely unrealistic, that he does not rely on it, and that it is not a prediction ?
    Also, while we are on the subject, I find it difficult to see how the observed data allow us to discriminate between his scenarios B and C, yet Hansen only emphasises the similarity to scenario B. I wonder why ?
    I think I am addressing a substantive issue here. If your prediction is simply that temperature can go up, down or stay the same, what value is your prediction ?

  59. Leonard Evens:

    With respect to Comment #58,

    Since you are anonymous, I can’t tell how seriously to take anything you say. But the internal evidence in your last comment doesn’t speak well for your analysis. You decided for some odd reason to compare an earlier local maximum (1990) to a later local minimum (2000) in a time series which clearly has a lot of internal variation. I presume the readers of realclimate are relatively sophisticated about such matters. Did you really expect anyone to take such an argument seriously? Also, note that since Michaels testified in 1998 about Hansen’s testimony in 1988, it is unlikely that he was attempting such a transparent scam.

  60. Chip Knappenberger:

    It is clever than Hansen decided to use his met. station dataset to compare with his 1988 predictions (see the link in Gavin’s response to #53). Yet, when Hansen describes the record setting year of 2005 in his NASA GISS posting, he focuses on their land+ocean dataset (see http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2005/). My point here is not that 2005 wasn’t a record setter in the GISS met. station dataset, but that the (apparently) preferred of the two datasets for capturing the global average temperature is the GISS land+ocean dataset. If the land+ocean temperature departures are superimposed on Hansen’s 1988 predictions, then Scenario C (the low end scenario) is the closest to the observations (note that 2005 was 0.15C cooler in the GISS land+ocean data than in the met. stations dataset). Curious that in his response to Crichton/Michaels Hansen chose the warmer, yet less representative of his two datasets. Admittedly, he does make reference to this in a footnote in the Crichton/Michaels response, but that has much less impact than a visual. Further, in the footnote, he tries to justify using the met. station data by claiming that the CRU record warms at a greater rate than even his met. station dataset, but a quick check of the warming rate from the CRU data http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/ from 1960-2005 shows it to match quite closely to the GISS land+ocean data which warms about 0.15C less than the GISS met. station data from 1960-2005.

    So, it seems like Hansen was being curiously selective in the use of data in his Crichton/Michaels response. It doesn’t cut it to say that the met. station data was used because that is the data that was used in the original 1988 publication, even though he has developed a more representative dataset since then.

    So, perhaps #55 should be a bit careful in throwing around the word “fraud.”

    [Response: The ‘fraud’ was Michaels’ as you are well aware. -gavin]

  61. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 58, 53

    You seem to be assuming that Hansen made a set of three arbitrary temperature predictions, then cherry picked the one that turned out to be right. This is wrong. He made a set of predictions contingent on GHG concentrations and volcanism, and now discusses Scenario B because its forcing turned out to be closest to reality (as expected at the outset). So he made a resonable guess about future forcings and the model gave the right temperature trajectory as a result.

    Michaels’ slander is to compare the temperature from Scenario A to reality, deliberately ignoring the fact that its forcing was not the most realistic. Scenario A was clearly described as “on the high side of reality” due to high GHGs and low volcanism. Scenario A was a prediction of what would have happened if high forcing had materialized – but it didn’t.

    Similarly, there’s no need to discriminate between B and C by temperature data, because we know that the forcing in C is lower than reality. If C had higher temperatures than B for some reason, there might be cause for worry, but it’s clear that, after the volcanic transient, they diverge in the expected manner.

  62. Pat Neuman:

    Commerce Department tells National Weather Service media contacts must be pre-approved
    Larisa Alexandrovna

    The Department of Commerce has issued a blanket media policy to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), requiring that all requests for contact from national media be first approved by the Department, RAW STORY has learned.

    According to a leaked Sept. 29 email memo sent out to NOAA staff, including employees of the National Weather Service (NWS) — both of which are under the Department of Commerce — employees must collect information from reporters and forward it to the Department.

    Originally published on Tuesday October 4, 2005.


    Link found in a posted this AM at:

  63. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    #47, thanks, Eachran. I do think personal & business solutions can greatly reduce our GHGs, but we need a lot more leadership from the top. Pres. Bush didn’t even mention GW in his speech last night, and though he spoke of alt. energy (which tends to cost more), he didn’t mention anything about energy/resource efficiency & conservation (which saves us money).

    If people would just listen to me & other regular people, that would be great, but I can’t get anyone to to anything. We need a JFK-50 mile hike type of campaign, with the Pres. continually cheerleading us on. My heart is also sick that Kerry didn’t mention much about GW (not that I heard, anyway). I figure, win or lose, the best strategy is to be honest with people & encourage them to do right.

    I know the top gov people are paid for & owned by oil & coal, but really energy/resource efficiency & conservation is very good for all other businesses, as well as households. In econ terms, its getting closer to the productions possibility frontier.

    I’m thinking a great ticket in the next election would be Gore-McCain or McCain-Gore (hope you guys are out there reading this). They are not afraid to speak out on GW, & they’d appeal to both parties.

  64. per:

    I thought there was a policy here about ad hominem abuse, yet people seem to be throwing words around like “slander”, “fraud”, with insufficient justification. Perhaps it is better to cut out the abuse ?

    Re: #59,61
    Hansen made a set of three predictions, “to bracket likely possibilities”. He also says that one scenario (B) is “most likely”; this isn’t particularly helpful, since we don’t know how much more likely it is than A or C. If scenario A wasn’t realistic, he should have said so.

    I chose the years 90-2000 just because they were a decade, and not because of the min/max. I accept the numbers are noisy, but any suitable averaging method is going to show that the observations are much closer to B/C, than A.

    I remain unconvinced that we “know the forcings”, like it has been handed down to us by God. We have hypotheses about what the forcings are, and how they relate to temperature; but that is not perfect knowledge. If you are going on record as saying that scenario C is completely unlikely, then you are being more clear than the good dr hansen. That will also be a testable hypothesis.

    [Response: Scenario C had constant concentrations of GHGs from 2000. I think that can be ruled out by simple observation. -gavin]

  65. Almuth Ernsting:

    Re: 25:
    I am always surprised that some people seem to be equating action against GW with socialism. Traditional socialism never even spoke about living within the planet’s limits. Of course there are socialists who are coming round to the idea of taking strong action to curb GW, but then so do people of many political and religious persuasions, who simply share a wish to preserve a pleasant life for themselves, their children and other people.

    I think you might want to have a look here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,1506672,00.html about the former CEO of Shell urging action on climate change.

    Or here: http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,1494083,00.html
    about 13 UK companies, including BP, HSCB and major utility companies uring much stronger action than at present.

    Would you accuse those companies of political bias and wanting enforced poverty?

    Re: politics and science
    If my family were about to be killed by a volcanic eruption and scientists knew that there was a very high risk of this, I would expect them to make sure I knew, too, so that I could evacuate. I would not expect them to only leak the information to politicians who then decided whether on a cost-benefit analysis it was worth the money evacuating us. Drawing parallels with the climate-politics debate, perhaps some politicians might decide that, since there was still a chance of the volcano not killing people, it would be better and cheapest to keep quiet, spend the money elsewhere, and clear up the debris afterwards if it did erupt. And they would accuse those scientists who felt morally obliged to go to the press of playing politics. Well, of course they wouldn’t, not if it was a volcano…

    Almuth Ernsting

  66. Anonymous Coward:

    I would like to return the topic of conversation back the to concepts raised in comments# 33, 36, 38 & 41 relating to the impact of Arctic sea ice on global climate. I also agree with the poster that the effect of such a large reduction in the polar albedo would be greater than previously thought. In particular the increased arctic summer temperatures would hasten glacial loss in Greenland & associated sea level rise. The reduction in temperatures referred to by gavin in 38 are unlikely to occur naturally for many tens of millenia if future Milankovitch forcings are to be believed, so we are locked into what this future climate may entail. My real question here is whether in the global climate models, simulations have been run which include no summer arctic ice and what they look like, and if enough forcing is given to the effect of high latitude ice since this seems to be a driving force particularly in the succession of ice ages.

  67. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 64

    The terms fraud and slander have been directed at Michaels’ 98 article. Slander is perhaps inappropriate as it implies defamation of an individual and Michaels is defaming Hansen’s model results. Fraud isn’t quite right either, as it implies pursuit of private gain. Perhaps Harry Frankfurt could suggest an appropriate term.

    Michaels can only be exonerated if he can demonstrate a good reason to selectively show only the highest of Hansen’s scenarios. I doubt this is possible. If the scenarios were random realizations (e.g. from a distribution of uncertain sensitivities or individual runs from an ensemble) then he should have used all three. Same goes if the relationship between the scenario and actual forcings were truly unknown. The only justification for selectively using Scenario A would be a known best correspondence between its inputs and reality – which is not the case here. So I have to conclude that Michaels’ work represents some combination of gross error, sloppiness, and deliberate deception.

    The real situation is actually worse than that, because the forcings are not completely unknown. They may not be handed down to us by God but key components – like the GHGs and volcanism Hansen used in his scenarios – are known with sufficient accuracy over the last decade to easily distinguish among A, B, and C. Hansen freely admits that the close agreement between B and reality is partly fortuitous, because the 1988 model had high climate sensitivity. Presumably the agreement persists partly because of offsetting uncertain forcing (aerosols) and partly because we’re assessing small signals amid natural variability.

    Neither forcing uncertainty nor natural variability provides a valid reason to selectively focus on Scenario A, or even to regard the scenarios as equally likely. To say that we don’t know how much more likely [B] is than A or C is in effect to say that we don’t know the shape of the distribution of uncertain forcings. However, we do know that the well-measured components of forcing were closest to B, so you’d have to invoke some auxiliary hypothesis to imagine that A and C aren’t somewhere in the tails.

    If scenario A wasn’t realistic, he should have said so. Apparently he did say so: “Scenario A was described as “on the high side of reality”, because it assumed rapid exponential growth of greenhouse gases and it assumed that there would be no large volcanoes (which inject small particles into the stratosphere and cool the Earth) during the next half century. Scenario C was described as “a more drastic curtailment of emissions than has generally been imagined”, specifically greenhouse gases were assumed to stop increasing after 2000. The intermediate Scenario B was described as “the most plausible”. Scenario B had continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions at a moderate rate and it sprinkled three large volcanoes in the 50-year period after 1988, one of them in the 1990s.” I don’t have the ’88 journal article to verify, but whether Hansen specified his subjective probability distribution for forcings a priori has no bearing on ex post evaluation of the modeled relationship between forcing and temperature.

  68. per:

    Re: 67

    If scenario A wasn’t realistic, he should have said so. Apparently he did say so: “Scenario A was described as “on the high side of reality,…
    It was also a prediction “to bracket likely possibilities”. You may know what “on the high side of reality” means, but it seems very imprecise language to me. It seems that we are now going back and cherry-picking interpretations of what he said in 1988; and that goes very much against the spirit of what you are trying to do by making a prediction.

    Likewise, I am very unimpressed by relating the prediction of temperature to forcings, because, by definition, you only know the forcings after the event. After the event, you don’t need to know the forcings to tell you what the temperature was; it kind of defeats the purpose of making a prediction. At the moment, you are telling me that we are in scenario B territory, but there is no difference in prediction for scenario B and C in current temperature. You cannot actually tell if the forcings are lower than you think, and to me, it looks as if these “predictions” have very low predictivity associtated with them.

  69. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 60

    So, it seems like Hansen was being curiously selective in the use of data in his Crichton/Michaels response. It doesn’t cut it to say that the met. station data was used because that is the data that was used in the original 1988 publication, even though he has developed a more representative dataset since then.

    It seems perfectly reasonable for Hansen to use the same temperature series used in 1988 to update the figure. The purpose of the exercise was to point out Crichton’s uncritical acceptance of the error in Michaels’ critique of Hansen’s ’88 testimony (comparing the high-forcing Scenario A to reality, erasing curves B and C). Any of the temperature series would illustrate that point perfectly well. Hansen makes no claim to have made a perfect forecast, and explicitly points out that “such close agreement is fortuitous”. To correctly evaluate the ’88 model, you’d need to go back and rerun it with actual forcings, e.g. Pinatubo in place of a hypothetical 1995 eruption, and see what happens. Then it would make sense to use GISStemp for comparison, but it still wouldn’t make sense to obsess on 0.1K differences due to uncertain forcings and natural variability. It would be interesting to compare Hansen’s forecast with a skeptical no-AGW hypothesis from 1988, if a suitably quantifiable one could be found.

  70. Dano:

    RE 67:

    Scenarios are projections, which are management tools containing feedback loops for adaptive management techniques. Predictivity is for predictions. These are projections.

    Mixing these things up is a common mistake.

    One uses indicators in projections for assessment, whereby, say, when 410 ppmv CO2 is reached one would expect X temp. You then look at temp data and see where you are. If you’re higher, what went wrong and adapt your management. If you’re lower you look at other stuff.

    I’m sure you know this already, just a reminder…



  71. per:

    presumably if projections are completely wrong, they have minimal predicivity ?
    I am confused; I thought this was science, not business studies. However, I see we are at the cutting edge of applying business practices here :)

  72. Dano:

    I’d have thunk you have far too much education to be confused…er…per.

    But as you know, projections were used because of the large range of future uncertainty associated with tryin’ t’ figger out human behavior. See, because of uncertainty, it is best to project rather than predict, as resource managers use indicators to adaptively manage. That was the driver.

    Because future trends in fossil fuel use and other human activities are uncertain, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has developed a set of scenarios for how the 21st century may evolve. These scenarios consider a wide range of possibilities for changes in population, economic growth, technological development, improvements in energy efficiency, and the like. The two primary climate scenarios used in this Assessment are based on one mid-range emissions scenario for the future that assumes no major changes in policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

    But this is all so confusing, per: you surely know this already, why the confusion in your posts? It seems as if there is some sort of sowing of confusion between describing the management and the science…naaah. Couldn’t be.



  73. Anonymous:

    For a little humor on this otherwise very serios subject Nick Anderson (Louisville Courrier Journal) has pretty much summed up the issue between Jim Hansen and the NASA Public Affairs Office in a recent political cartoon.
    See Image dated 1/31/06

  74. jimmy walter:

    In regards to the KT Impact, there is a dispute from some volcano experts that the KT extinction and ice ages were not caused by an impact but by vulcanism. None the less, even if not all, many of the other ice ages were acompanied by CO2 increases without impacts or mankind. Many experts today say we are entering an ice age, even if there is a warm up period preceeding. Just look at the ice age timing charts and co2 timing charts to see this has happened before.

    As far as the water heating at the surface faster, that would be expected if the source was volcanic as well.

    The biggest inbalance in the CO2 concept is that the heating of the water in total from whatever source has released far more co2 than mankind has created. If so and the system is now vicious cycling, that is the heating water is producing more co2 and water vapor which is causing more heating, then cutting human emissions is mute.

  75. Hank Roberts:

    Who told you all that?

  76. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 74

    The biggest inbalance in the CO2 concept is that the heating of the water in total from whatever source has released far more co2 than mankind has created.
    If that were the case it should show up fairly obviously in measurements of surface fluxes & concentrations, isotope ratios, etc. Are there any citations that point to this?

  77. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 68

    You seem to have adopted a fatalist view that leaves no room for any sort of value to prediction. Would you be unimpressed by a model that relates the trajectory of an aircraft to the position of its control surfaces, because we don’t know which way the pilot will move the stick? Would you be unimpressed by a model that relates the point of impact of a projectile to the angle of its launcher, because after we conduct the experiment we know the point of impact anyway?

    Your argument hinges on the idea that forcing is wholly unknown and thus of no utility in predicting temperature, even with a perfect model of climate response to forcing. I think you will find little sympathy for the idea that forcings are so uncertain that the contribution of well-measured components like CO2, for which the trajectory is fairly predictable on decadal time scales, is lost in the noise – yet somehow we have failed to observe any source of the noise. There’s some uncertainty in the forcings – we don’t know when the next volcanic eruption will be, there’s some debate about solar, aerosols are not fully understood, etc. But the overall momentum is clear – anthro forcings are going up, and there are no known reasons to expect large trends in other forcings.

    It is reasonable to say that using a climate model to estimate forcings based on a decade of data yields little information. But that is not what Hansen was doing, and it is irrelevant because we do know the actual evolution of the forcings Hansen used (unless you think that a 10km3 volcanic eruption somehow went unnoticed). We are not cherry-picking because we can go back to the ’88 journal article and compare its forcing scenario to reality. The fact that his model fit the data does not prove the model, as he clearly stated, but remember that it was Michaels who brought the topic up in the first place by pretending that poor fit of the wrong forcing scenario somehow refuted the model.

  78. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 25

    I’m no fan of bureaucracy or dictatorship, but I’m turned off by the usual libertarian response to commons problems: denying that the problem exists, or pretending that technology growth will solve it forever. There are economic instruments more consistent with free choice (e.g. demand revealing auctions), but they still require institutions to implement, and have higher transaction costs than simple carbon taxes. It’s not black and white that a friend of the environment is an enemy of freedom.

  79. EcoTalk | Air America Radio:

    Imminent Danger
    NASA’s Chief Climate Scientist, Jim Hansen, turned down more than 100 requests for interviews this week in the wake of a front page

  80. jimmy walter:

    “The top ten feet of the ocean contain as much heat as the entire atmosphere. It makes sense that the atmosphere will follow the ocean’s lead.” K Trenberth, NCAR, Boulder.

    As water temperature rises, its ability to hold gases decreases, not increases. All the studies show an increase in ocean temperatures at all depths, the low ones being perhaps the most important since they are the coldest and therefore have the ability to contain more CO2 and lose more as temperature rises. There are mitigating factors including what is saturation or relative saturation such that an increase in temperature will release how much? But it is basic science that hotter water contains less gas.

    Moreover, CO2 is bubbling up in many places

    There have been no mass/heat/gas equation and qualitative research presented on the amounts takihg into account ocean depth and temperature, just claims as to cause of rising acidity. The fact that the ocean acidity is increasing does not ipso facto mean the source of all of the carbon dioxide is human. It could be and is both. But the amount of human co2 produced is miniscule compared to that produced naturally. There are many scientists who agree.

  81. jimmy walter:

    Earthquake activity certainly seems to be rising, and therefore volcanic activity. if you look at the significant earthquakes list from USGS http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/world/historical.php you will see that the number of significant earthquakes going back for the previous years starting in 2005 were
    2005 55
    2004 48
    2003 70
    2002 45
    2001 8
    2000 6
    1999 13
    1998 10
    1997 3
    1977 4

    The last year is 1977 and before that the pattern is less than 3 in any one year back to the beginning of record keeping.

    While one can claim that the records earlier where incomplete due to fewer reporting stations, etc., The dramatic increase in significant earthquakes since 1997 is undeniable. Since earthquake and volcanic activity go hand in hand and most volcanic activity is undersea and virtually undetectable, earthquake activity is detectable undersea so we can logically conclude that undersea volcanic activity is rising proportionately. There are numerous news articles on undersea volcanos being discovered.

  82. Hank Roberts:


    You rely on the USGS numbers for counting earthquakes, but tell us they’re wrong about their explanation? Hm?

    If you add more traffic cops, you get more traffic tickets written — that’s my analogy for how the USGS explains the count going up year after year. More seismographs in use.

    Who explained it to you differently? If it was explained to you as coming from a scientific source, by whom? — source, please? There are a lot of geologists involved in climate science one way or another. Maybe you can get your source to comment, if it’s from someone’s scientific work. At least we should be able to look up the article. Where?

    If your source is religious, well, bless your heart.

  83. Coby:

    I listened to Dr Hansen on two NPR radio podcasts, he does very well. One caller made a good point about preaching to the converted on NPR, though arrived at an overly pessimistic conclusion for my tastes. But it brought to my mind the idea of Fox News interviewing Dr James Hansen. Kind of a strange spectacle that would be, but these are the people that need to hear the message, if it isn’t “no spin zone”d into total gibberish first…

    Perhaps, rather than demotion or even dismissal, this is the punishment that awaits Dr Hansen for daring to take his knowledge directly to the public!

  84. Joel Shore:

    Re #81: Oh, dear me, not the Oregon petition again (i.e., your linke to http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p36.htm)! You do realize, I hope, that it is now 8 years old, most of what wasn’t wrong in that paper at the time has since been shown to be wrong (e.g., the temperature trend in the lower troposphere from the satellite data), and that the signatures to that petition were solicited in a spam-like fashion using very deceptive techniques and with no attempt to make sure that those who signed on had any knowledge whatsoever in the field. (See item #2 here http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN03/wn080803.html for a quick rundown of the story by physicist Bob Park.)

  85. Joel Shore:

    The reference in my last comment should be to comment #80.

  86. Hank Roberts:


    “the agency’s administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for “scientific openness” throughout the agency.”

    “‘It is not the job of public-affairs officers,’ Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency’s 19,000 employees, ‘to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.'”
    … [Last October]
    “… George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word ‘theory’ after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times.”

    “… Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office … was an intern in the “war room” of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign….he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements.”

    “‘The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,'” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, ‘It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.'”

    “It continued: ‘This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.'” ….
    See the NYT for the full text; these are my excerpts.

    Framing science as a “debate” with only two sides is indeed a religious issue. This is not even journalism.

  87. George Chami:

    Dear Sir, I wonder if the one of the indirect effect of aerosols are warmer summers and colder winters, I could like to suggest that these particles could switch it’s action from cooling effect to warming effect in certain threshold of temperature and moisture. In warm and relatively dry weather they are not surrounded by water droplets so they absorb heat from the sun and directly increase the air temperature causing warmer summer, while in cold weather they are surrounded by water droplets forming brighter clouds and reflect the sunshine to space causing colder winters. I think that this â??switch effect” could partially explain the increase in the number and violence of hurricanes, as the particles are “switched-on” for heat in one area and “switch-off” in a another nearby area causing greater contrast in air temperature and increase the likelihood of violent shifting air.

  88. Hank Roberts:

    > 87
    George, your idea reminds me of something I read in this article:

    “We define the efficacy of a climate forcing as the global mean temperature change per unit forcing produced by the forcing agent relative to [CO2 in the same model]. We introduced the efficacy concept and terminology at a workshop on air pollution as a climate forcing [Hansen, 2002] because it was realized that the climate effect of pollutants such as soot and ozone was complex, depending especially on their spatial distribution ….”

    So there’s your location making a difference. And further down:

    “The GISS model includes the effect of humidity on sulfate, nitrate and OC aerosol sizes [Schmidt et al., 2005; Lacis, http://gacp.giss.nasa.gov/data_sets/lacis/database.html, which substantially increases the aerosol optical depths and radiative forcings.”

    So there’s your humidity difference — the experts here can probably point you toward how to find more about the modeling, and about what’s been found in field work looking at this stuff.

    I recal NASA is right now flying a high elevation jet in parallel with a satellite, over Costa Rica, looking for info about how the real atmosphere behaves in the tropics where the lower (troposphere) gets boiled up into the upper (stratosphere), driving the circulation of air. It’s apparently very little known yet, and the sampling-and-satellite-lookdown at the same time should be full of surprises.


    Oh, and on another point entirely:

    NASA PR dude Deutsch didn’t graduate from Texas A&M. Nick Anthis, a Texas A&M grad (now a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford) checked up.

  89. Mark A. York:


    George Deutsch a lapdog from Texas A&M is the sanitizer at NASA. Here’s a sampling of his previous work.

  90. Hank Roberts:

    More related news and comment in this article:
    The NOAA & the White House
    by DarkSyde
    Fri Feb 10, 2006


    In the comments below that article is a two-step way to read the primary source story — start with this link:


    Once there click on the search result in Google News:

    NOAA’s Flood
    New Republic, D.C. – Feb 9, 2006

    Clicking THAT gets the TNR article

    Briefly, NOAA scientists have been having problems similar to those at NASA, going back several years.

  91. Pat Neuman:

    re 90. NOAA NWS failed to approve the paper: “Earlier in the Year Snowmelt Runoff and Increasing Dewpoints for Rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota”* September 11, 2003

    * Also given as a poster presentation given on the paper at a NWS Climate Prediction Center / Desert Research Center conference in Reno, NV in Oct 2003, on personal time.

  92. Hank Roberts:

    From the comments in that Daily Kos thread about NOAA, this:

    “… A few months ago I attended a “brown bag” lunch at the library where they had a distinguished professor from U MD who had written a book on the history of research into global warming. Attending this lecture were a group of college students …. they expressed their amazement to me that in their welcoming breakfast from Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.) Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, he had actually said to them “Oh, you know of course that there is no definitive proof that global warming exists.”

  93. Pat Neuman:

    Testimony of James R. Mahoney, Ph.D. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
    Before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Global Climate Change and Impacts
    Hearing on Global Climate Change Policy and Budget Review
    20 July 2005

  94. Pat Neuman:

    How successul has CCSP been in integrating research from NASA on climate change?

    Excerpts from the 20 July 2005 Testimony (93.) which include the word “NASA” follow.

    The Climate Change Science Program integrates federal research on global change and climate change, as sponsored by thirteen federal agencies (the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of State, the Department of Interior, the Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Smithsonian Institution), and with liaisons in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality, the National Economic Council and the Office of Management and Budget.

    NOAA Implements an Operational Critical Climate Forecast System: In August 2004, a global ocean and atmosphere coupled Climate Forecast System (CFS) became operational at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction of the National Weather Service. The Climate Forecast System is a fully coupled model representing the interactions between the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere. These interactions are critical for determining climate on seasonal time scales. This implementation is a recent example of a successful transition of research into operations through long-term, ongoing collaborative efforts by NOAA scientists, other Federal Agencies (NASA, NSF), and the university research community.

    NOAA Provides Weather and Climate Products to the FEWS Network: The International Weather and Climate Monitoring Project at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is an extension of an earlier USAID Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) program that originally covered only Sub-Sahelian Africa. The project has now grown to encompass all of Africa, Afghanistan, Central America and the Caribbean, the Mekong River Basin, and much of southern Asia. Work is underway to create a global weather and climate monitoring program to address any international region where humanitarian support is needed. The goal of the program is to provide weather and climate related information to users within USAID as well as international partner organizations, such that a greater level of humanitarian assistance may be offered. The goal is only accomplished through constant interaction with our partner groups such as the USGS, NASA, USAID, private sector contractors and local African organizations. A more thorough and accurate analysis of conditions is possible via these collaborations.


  95. Peter Lee:

    I can’t help wondering if creeping Crichtonism has something to do with Dr. Hansen’s difficulties. I found it rather interesting that distortion of some of Hansen’s findings are featured in State of Fear. Crichton is apparently the preferred pseudo-scientist for people in the Bush administration and in Congress seeking to evade and ignore disturbing climate change evidence. Is it coincidence that, now that Crichton is a legitimizing oracle for global warming skeptics who wish to believe that scientists are engaged in duplicitous alarmism, that Mr. Deutsch, a loyal Bush foot soldier, felt he has a mission to stifle Dr. Hansen’s public comments?

    Perhaps the most disturbing subtext of this whole mess is the politicization of debate, not only in the injection of misleading comments into the threads here such as the attempt to discredit Dr. Hansen as a partisan Kerry voter. By “politicization”, I mean the fact that any debate can be politicized by making a political attack on a scientists whose views are inconvenient, even if the target has not made any statements that can be seized upon as partisan. Only unfounded assertions of bias are necessary. Once the political attack has been made, any public statements by the target in defense of his or her findings can be declared “political” and the entire debate is tainted.

    From what I can see of Dr. Hansen’s public remarks, he is to be commended for his restraint in limiting the dispute to his right to present his conclusions and not giving his enemies grist for their mill. Given the Bush administration’s indefatigable and unscrupulous pursuit of those whose views and conclusions embarrass it, I would not be surprised if a whispering campaign against Dr. Hansen’s qualifications and integrity intensified after this public setback.

  96. Pat Neuman:

    re 94. … “The Climate Change Science Program integrates federal research on global change and climate change, as sponsored by thirteen federal agencies” …

    How do people at RC who are involved with ANY of the “thirteen federal agencies” feel about the success (or lack of) which CSSP has had in it’s “integrating research on global change and climate change” with the agency or agencies?

  97. Stephen Berg:


    “NOAA’s Flood
    by John B. Judis
    Post date: 02.11.06
    Issue date: 02.20.06”

    “On November 29, top officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes the National Weather Service, held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to sum up this year’s disastrous hurricane season. The first question from a reporter was one the press had been asking since Hurricane Katrina reached land three months before: ‘I was wondering if one of you can talk about what extent, if any, global warming may have played in the storms this year?’ Noaa’s chief hurricane forecast scientist, Gerry Bell, stepped forward to answer. Bell denied that ‘greenhouse warming’ had any effect on the hurricanes. The hurricanes, he insisted, were merely part of ‘the 20- to 30-year cycles that we’ve seen since 1950.'”


  98. Hank Roberts:

    >97 is a link for subscribers; but see
    >90 and follow those links to see the article if 97 doesn’t work for you.

  99. Steve Sadlov:

    For all the hysteria on this thread about reputed “interference” by “Dubya et al” I find it interesting that from my own point of view as a real, apolitical, skeptic, George W. Bush has actually fallen, hook line and sinker for at least some of the claims made in “Earth In Balance.” Where he ought to be making the US more energy independent via demonstrated-effective-for-economies-of-scale coal, nuclear and veg-oil power, he instead has fallen, much like another of his ilk, Arnie, for the “hydrogen-solar-wind-ethanol” Ecotopian chimera.

    Long term, the Earth is cooling and will continue to cool, eventually to absolute zero. We must either find a way to restart real progress (including 100% defeat of all neo-Luddites) and get off this rock, or we shall freeze along with it. I do not write these last words lightly and write them with a basis in the geological record from the last 4 Billion Years. Any rational examination of paleoclimate on this scale demonstrates the long, and inescapable, trend of cooling that we cannot defeat, either unintentionally or by design.

  100. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 99

    Not really. First, one of the major technology pushes under the current administration is clean coal. Second, two of the major sources pursued for hydrogen are coal and nuclear. Third, ethanol is hardly a darling of the environmental movement; it’s more a favorite of the corn belt and automakers who get CAFE credits for ethanol-capable vehicles that will seldom see ethanol at the pump. Fourth, wind and solar are hardly at the forefront of current support.

    Since the cooling is excruciatingly slow, we’d be prudent to try to avoid short term crises while we wait for technology to get us off this rock; I don’t see how some of our more profligate uses of energy further the goal of species survival.

  101. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #100.

    What is your operational definition of profligate uses of energy? Where would you draw the line? Who should draw the line?

  102. Tom Fiddaman:

    Re 101

    Well, a year or two I sat at an airport watching front end loaders dump bucket after bucket of snow into a steaming machine that melted it and ran it down the drain. That struck me as profligate, but maybe it’s actually efficient in the grand scheme of things. Therefore I wouldn’t presume to be the arbiter of profligacy; I’d just like to see the value of climate effects, local air pollution, depletion, etc. internalized into energy prices so that people can make their own decisions about what’s profligate or productive without pushing off hidden costs on others.

    I’d also note that the cooling is only medium term (from orbital forcing); in the longer run the sun will go red giant and fry the earth to a cinder well before the entropic death of the universe cools things down again.

  103. Joel Shore:

    As Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead anyway. Seriously, while it makes sense to worry about things that might occur over time scales of a few to several generations, I don’t see it as reasonable to prepare for things that will occur on timescales of hundreds of millions to billions of years…Or, more to the point, to use that as an excuse to do nothing about problems that will affect us over the next few generations. That has to be one of the most bizarre excuses that I have heard for not facing up to the current climate change issue!

  104. Hank Roberts:

    > energy prices so that people can make their own decisions
    > about what’s profligate or productive without pushing off
    > hidden costs on others.

    That’s why we need government — otherwise those externalized costs remain hidden, because the people they harm aren’t part of our political circle.

    Everyone lives downstream and downwind, but voting and pricing and marketing draw small circles and put as many costs as possible outside the circle of attention.

    Warming and pollution and ozone loss and health concerns are all among the external costs not recognized by markets.

  105. science bistro / the culture of science:

    Climate expert says NASA tried to silence him
    Climate expert was pressured to zip it after releasing 2005-warmest-year-of-last-century info.