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James Hansen: Time to Go CO2 Negative!

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- October 5, 2016

“We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”

– James Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet.” The New York Times Review of Books (2006).

“Contrary to the impression favored by governments, the corner has not been turned toward declining emissions and GHG amounts…. Negative CO2 emissions, i. e., extraction of CO2 from the air, is now required.”

– James Hansen, “Young People’s Burden.” October 4, 2016.

Ten years ago, James Hansen predicted doom if mankind did not “fundamentally” reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in ten years. This ultimatum to the world came due this summer.

But far from raising the white flag, the father of the modern climate alarm now demands via legal action that CO2 and other GHG emissions go negative “if climate is to be stabilized on the century time scale, as a result of past failure to reduce emissions.”

He continues: “If rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions begins soon, most of the necessary CO2 can take place via improved agricultural and forestry practices, including reforestation and steps to improve soil fertility and increase its carbon content.”


‘All deliberate speed’ will be a dominant issue for climate.  Our governments have not accepted the reality dictated by the laws of physics and climate science: we must phase out fossil fuel emissions rapidly. Mother Nature will not wait for bumbling half-baked government schemes for reducing emissions. It will be essential that the Court not only demand all deliberate speed, but continually examine the reality of what the government is accomplishing, and that the government have both short-term and long-term plans of action.

Hansen states that a negative trajectory is possible. Don’t tell that to Americans or to the industrializing world. And don’t look to carbon capture and storage. Or politics.

The obvious question is: when will he throw in the towel and turn from government-directed mitigation to market-directed adaptation. Richer, freer societies adapt to change much better than command-and-control, CO2-rationed economies, after all.

Pretense of Knowledge

Dr. Hansen is dead certain that he understands the physics and economics of climate change to know the problem and the solution. He believes that climate models understand real climate, economic models understand real economies, and policymakers can implement ideals.

Hansen is the ultimate central planner, imaging not only that he has unique knowledge but that the real world will conform to his edicts. In short, Hansen is possessed by a fatal conceit.

It begins with computer models, which have over-predicted real world warming. “We do not know much about modeling climate,” climate scientist Gerald North of Texas A&M University once explained to me. “It is as though we are modeling a human being. Models are in position at last to tell us the creature has two arms and two legs, but we are being asked to cure cancer.” On another occasion, he added: “The problem is difficult, and there are pitifully few ways to test climate models.”

“Computer models just weren’t reliable,” James Lovelock recently stated in reference to his about-face on climate catastrophism. “I’m not sure the whole thing isn’t crazy, this climate change.” Which brings up the futile crusade of James Hansen, which is allowing a speculative, unsolvable problem to divert real resources from here-and-now human needs.


  1. Ray  

    A computer model is just a way of testing a hypothesis. It tells you that the predicted effect could happen if your assumptions are correct, and if the mechanisms you put in the computer code are correct. If a climate model predicts warming and it actually happens, it simply means it could have happened the way the model predicted. To base policy decisions on a model is crazy.


  2. Before We Go Now  

    […] Rob Bradley explains the corner into which James Hansen has painted himself, with his climate […]


  3. BobC  

    “Hansen is the ultimate central planner, imaging not only that he has unique knowledge but that the real world will conform to his edits. In short, Hansen is possessed by a fatal conceit.”

    That should be ‘edicts’.


  4. Bryce W. Johnson  

    History is replete with cases of CO2 atmospheric concentration and its temperature have trended in opposite directions. We have had colder world temperature with more CO2 and hotter temperature with less CO2. All temperature predictions by the alarmists that have come due are gross exaggerations. We need nothing else to refute the climate-change alarm. But we also have two cumulative negative feedbacks that prevent a runaway temperature excursion. All greenhouse gases saturate, so that added concentrations have less effect than previous equal concentrations. Also the atmosphere keeps a smaller fraction of its CO2 input as CO2 input increases. This produces and asymptotic decrease of CO2 to a finite constant limiting value. Google “Nature Abhors a Positive Feedback” for an analytical derivation of the latter two negative feedbacks.


  5. jxxx mxxx  

    it’s sad b/c this is so easy to fix: Enact a carbon tax of $1/gal co2 equiv PLUS a 20% VAT, then use that revenue to repeal/replace the income tax, thereby buying off conservatives opposed to libs big gov approach to AGW.

    Problem solved. Next….


  6. Timothy Weaver  

    I’ve been skeptical of the claims by global warming alarmists. It is true that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and there is more in the atmosphere. It’s the predictions they made about the effects that is the problem. Having said that, at least James Hansen supports nuclear power as opposed to other alarmists who want to fight AGW by invoking the ghost of Karl Marx.



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    […] Bradley Jr  has made a posting on the MasterResource web site and I am reposting it in its entirety.    Bradley takes on James Hansen,  the so-called  god […]


  8. Mitigation Math: Is Climate Activism Futile? (Judith Curry thinks so) - Master Resource  

    […] 2006 in The New York Review of Books. When that prediction came due, Hansen floated the need to go emissions-negative. Wow! Then, just a couple of months later, he recanted to say that we still have time to turn […]


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