James Hansen’s New Clothes (shifting in retreat)
By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 3, 2021
The father of global warming alarm, James Hansen, has been very good about speaking truth to power in many aspects of the climate debate. But his message is changing now that his earlier warnings and deadlines have come and gone.
The climate crisis cannot be solved in a decade, but it can be solved during your lifetime. This next decade, the fourth decade since the 1992 Framework Convention, is crucial for getting the climate story pointed in the right direction. This must be done in the context of fixing the urgent political crisis. If we do not fix the problem of political polarization, there is a danger that the climate situation really could go haywire.
At a November 13, 2021, rally (entire speech here), he stated some notable things worth commenting on.
Shifting on Renewables
Berlin Rally (13 November 2021)
- Renewable energies will be a large part of the solution for how we can
stabilize climate. However, we are still a long way from having a full
solution. In fact, we are just getting to the most difficult part of the story.
- Now we are beginning to catch glimpses of what is euphemistically
called the existential threat of climate change. Low latitudes are
beginning to be uncomfortable, including the subtropics in the summer.
- In addition, research by my group implies that continued business-asusual global GHG emissions could cause shutdown of overturning ocean
circulations in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic by mid-century.
Feedbacks associated with these shutdowns will speed melting of
Antarctic ice, leading to sea level rise of several meters, and the loss of
coastal cities in the lifetimes of some children being born today.
- Increasing climate extremes and emigration pressures caused by overheating of low latitudes and loss of coastal cities could make the planet
almost ungovernable. That’s the existential threat.
- That’s the bad news. Now the good news!
- The good news is that young people are beginning to understand the
hand that they are being dealt. They don’t like it. And they do not plan to
settle for it. We older people must do our best to support young people.
- I note that the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, on a
per capita basis, are the three major nations most responsible for global
warming. So they have a special responsibility to do what they can to
assure a bright future for young people.
- One thing that Germany could do – as it works toward its goal of 100
percent renewable energy – is consider young people in choosing how
they phase out older energies. The first to go should be the dirtiest, most
carbon-intensive energy, coal. The next should be gas. Gas is not clean.
Air pollution from the mining and burning of gas kills thousands of
Europeans per year, and its total greenhouse effect including leaked
methane is almost as bad as that of coal. Only then should the nuclear
power plants be closed.
- But the German government has taken actions that are more
consequential for young people and future generations. Germany is
attempting to have gas treated as a clean energy in financial rules of the
European Union and the United Nations. If Germany achieves this
preposterous goal for gas, young people worldwide justifiably will hold
your nation in contempt.
- Yet this is not the first time that Germany has stood against the
future of young people. In 2001 at COP6 in Bonn, Germany used its
position as the host nation to see that nuclear power was excluded as a
clean development mechanism. This exclusion and demonization of
nuclear power contributed to the delay in development of modern
nuclear power. Thus nations with emerging economies, such as China
and India, were forced down the path of coal.
- The German public is not to blame for this. Even the texts in schools
demonized nuclear power and failed to point out that other energy
sources were more dangerous for both human life and human health.
Modern nuclear power is safer by orders of magnitude.
- If Germany persists and succeeds in treating gas as clean and
discouraging use of nuclear power by other nations, the eyes of history
will be unforgiving.
- The eyes of innocent young people will be even more damning.
Germany will make a mockery of the goal to keep global warming to
1.5°C – and could cause global temperature to blow past 2°C – if it
succeeds in elevating gas and restricting use of modern nuclear power.
- Finally, I note that the United States and China are the largest
historic and present sources of greenhouse gases. The eyes of history
will frown on all of us, if we do not do all that we can to encourage the
U.S. and China to give priority to cooperation for the sake of young
people and future generations.