Jim Hansen is a renowned scientist and top NASA manager, apparently animated by reasonable objectives such as avoiding waste of resources and taking care of the natural world.
Why would he then have to resort to images of doom and gloom as in “The Threat to the Planet” (The New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006)?
The article is a remorseless barrage of wanton destruction. We learn that animals are abandoning their roaming areas, migrating without a choice towards natural barriers ready to “spell doom” on their species. “For all foreseeable human generations”, the world “will be a far more desolate place”.
We should ready ourselves to ice sheets beginning to “collapse”, seas rising half a yard per decade, and “repeated [urban] retreats from transitory shorelines” translating into a “calamity for hundreds of cities […] far larger than New Orleans”.
If we don’t mend our ways, there will be a “sea level rise of eighty feet”, “global chaos” and (who would have guessed?) “fewer resources”.
As much as 60 percent, and no fewer than 20 percent of “today’s species” are going to go the way of the Dodo.
Remarkably, all available space is devoted to global warming calamities. Even if it were to happen as catastrophically as portrayed, surely we (and Dr Hansen) should be able to predict something good coming out of Climate Change, somewhere, for example, concerning areas such as northern Canada, northern Siberia and some of the present deserts?.
The disasters described by Dr Hansen are indeed so encompassing and overwhelming to fall squarely in what has been labelled “Climate Porn” by left-wing UK think-tank the IPPR (see my my article “Saying No to ‘Climate Porn’?”, TCS Daily, Aug 16 2006).
The climax (pun intended) is reached when Dr Hansen writes that “if CO2 emissions are not limited […] all bets are off”.
Is the article’s very title seriously suggesting that Earth itself is under threat?
Not even the darkest forecasts can be used to make current climate change equivalent to, say, a 10-km size asteroid slamming against our planet: but I may be wrong.
I know Jim Hansen is one of many writing so dramatically about climate change. Without moving very far, similar questions could be posed to another article on The New York Review of Books, Tim Flannery’s “Endgame” (August 11, 2005).
In that case, alongside the usual “changes in sea levels, weather patterns, and the fate of many species” we are told that “continuing to burn coal […] is a threat to existence itself”.
Cue Paul and Anne Ehrlich writing about “ecological suicide in our time” (“One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future”, Island Press/Shearwater 2004).
For his part, Dr Hansen’s efforts to find ways to prevent the gloomy future so spectacularly depicted must be commended.
Anyway, he definitely loses this reader when the text verges toward close-minded paranoia.
Dr Hansen complains that in the media, “fringe ‘contrarians’ supported by the fossil fuel industry” are given “equal time” to express their skepticism (since when has Science progressed on consensus rather than real-world data?).
He then laments that fellow scientists are presenting climate change too “clinically” (before and after making plenty of citations from other catastrophists).
Finally, he states that somehow only climate change catastrophists such as Al Gore will be able to give the public “the information needed to distinguish our long-term well-being from short-term special interests” (of energy companies, above all).
One would hope for a more convincing set of arguments from a distinguished scientist, especially if Dr Hansen truly believes that the end of the world as we know it is near but we can still make a difference.
His forays into titillating catastrophism can only increase one’s skepticism, sounding as they do like the claims of some millenarian cult (a point recognised by the IPPR in the report mentioned above).
Faced with such a long list of absurdities, one is practically forced to put into question the very basis of Dr Hansen’s concerns.
Let’s ask ourselves then, are we really witnessing any significant change to the climate, caused by human activities?
Personally, I will be persuaded when and if “change” will be more meaningful and incontrovertible than melting glaciers, strong hurricanes, hot summers, cold winters (and one may add, wet water).
How about finding instead the one weather pattern changed anywhere in the world due to global warming?
Literally anything would do: recurring hurricane seasons in the South Atlantic; an alteration of prevailing regional winds in the Mediterranean; a different monsoon path; or any other stable weather pattern settling into a new status.
There is no report of any so far.
Remaining unconvinced of the upcoming perils of climate change and global warming, am I a “fringe contrarian”? Perhaps (but then I have no relationship whatsoever with the fossil fuel industry and energy companies apart than as paying customer).
But is it really too much to ask to leave catastrophism to the propagandists, and to keep a scientific debate focused on the real world?