A friendly correspondent of mine located at Princeton has reminded me of a talk that James Hansen of Columbia University gave at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, the place where Einstein worked and that still employs some of the smartest people on the planet, including a powerful group of string theorists.
The 70-minute talk by the man who was repeatedly arrested in recent months and years - a rather unusual fact about a speaker at the IAS - was given on November 19th:
Human-made climate change: a moral, political, and legal issue (click)In the words of the person who told me about the talk - and who attended it - it was very strange.
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And after I watched it, I agree, especially if I try to compare this talk to regular scientific talks or even colloquia.
From the very beginning, Hansen made lots of bold statements about the "planetary emergency" and horrible things waiting in the pipeline unless we reduce the CO2 concentration from 390 ppm to 350 ppm (a randomly chosen nonsensical number that is lower than 390 ppm) but he hasn't provided the listeners with something that they are used to from pretty much all the talks at their institute, namely evidence or a story that makes at least some sense.
Instead, the IAS researchers could repeatedly see photographs of Hansen's grandchildren who have admittedly inherited certain ugly and visibly non-cute features from their granddad. At some moment, you can watch a picture of Sophie for minutes. Hansen argues that it's partly right to call him the "grandfather of global warming" because he is a grandfather.
Additional ugly pictures of children are shown and given silly captions. Two little bastards, Sophie and Connor, are claimed to evaluate the radiative forcings. ;-) A traditional way to abuse the children - something that is even more widespread in Islam than it is in AGW.
Hansen claims that the Earth is "out of balance", without explaining whether it should be usual for a planet to be at balance, how much imbalanced it normally is, and what is the error bar of his current estimate. Clearly, the talk is optimized for people who never ask any sensible questions. Not sure whether the IAS folks were the right audience, however.
New pictures of grandkids follow. Somewhat prettier than before. Sophie is writing one of her first letters to President Obama now. She asked Barack: "Why don't you listen to my grandfather?" Meanwhile, the grandfather considers this argument "very clever", using his standards. Hansen told us that even the greenest countries such as Norway suck: imagine, they fund tar sands instead of using perpetual-motion machines to get the energy they need.
Remotely related: James Hansimian, a chimp, didn't beat NOAA in his hurricane predictions this year. Via NCPPR.
On another picture, Connor joins Hansen and Sophia and they celebrate the very good letter mentioned above. Congratulations. Hansen must be really proud. :-)
Hansen's mood rapidly deteriorates at 18:05; he has to return to the science. Superficial tautological statements are made about the sources of information - history, present, models. Global temperatures going back 65 million years ago were shown: there were no ice sheets prior to 40 million years before Christ.
Preposterous statements that all these changes were caused by CO2 are soon fixed: he admits that the orbital motion is the main cause. But he returns to the preposterous statement quickly. He doesn't feel any urge to even try to produce some evidence that CO2 mattered. Whenever it's clear that something is not caused by CO2, he mentions that CO2 has to be a powerful feedback - against, with no evidence. It's just some "mandatory baggage" that has to be added everywhere to skew the truth and that cannot be questioned.
Hansen promotes his crackpot pet theory of the sliding ice that will simply walk to the ocean - a hypothetical process that definitely doesn't decide about the fate of the ice sheets. Listeners had to go through a long and standard litany about melting glaciers, wildfires, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and others. At this point, his talk really picks comic proportions. He shows the list of all these hypothetical "catastrophes" - [here a miracle occurs] - and "derives" that each of them implies that the "right" CO2 concentration should be between 300 and 350 ppm to "preserve creation". Holy cow.
Could you please be more specific about the step 2 in the calculation, Mr Hansen?
Again, we simply cannot burn the available fossil fuels, he says. We can't burn the coal, we can't burn the unconventional fossil fuels. Well, be sure that we almost certainly will. Again, we learn that even Norway, the greenest country, is controlled by Big Oil. Well, it has to be so because the whole modern civilization depends on energy, Mr Hansen.
Hansen actually realizes that the cheapest fuels will be burned if they're the cheapest source. Of course, it's just like Newton's law of gravity, so the "right" solution he proposes is to distort the market in so gigantic ways so that they're no longer cheap. He wants a fee to be paid for mining or important fossil fuels. In fact, he also wants the fee to keep on increasing until the economies are happily devastated. The money should be given to the U.S. citizens to adapt to the fact that they must live without energy. In his viewpoint, it's better than cap-and-trade.
Two previously undisclosed grandchildren have totally distracted Mr Hansen while he was explaining that "China is going to suffer most from climate change" - what a piece of crap, by the way. We're promised that aside from the four grandchildren, we will also see Hansen's wife. I don't think that he has fulfilled the promise.
The grandson Jake is a gentle giant. He's among the top 1% biggest kids of his age, we learn. You need to be a top IAS researcher to understand this talk. If we allow Jake to grow under business-as-usual, he will be 2 meters tall. That's unacceptable so Jake must be made starving and hungry - that's how I understood Hansen's bizarre mixture of the two topics.
By now, we have acquired a deeper knowledge about Hansen's grandkids than their parents have.
Jefferson's "Earth belongs to the living" is totally misinterpreted - really inverted to its negation. Jefferson clearly meant that you can't allow dead and future people to vote about the decisions about the present. Only the present generations can decide. Jefferson surely did not mean that the rights of hypothetical people in the future should be taken into account now. He mainly wanted to say that the debts calculated by the previous - currently dead - generations shouldn't determine the lives of the present generation (a point I only partially share, but that's clearly unrelated to our relationship with the future generations).
Governments shouldn't be allowed to decide about their levels of carbon regulation. Courts should tell them that they are obliged to destroy the economies completely, Hansen argues. Thanks, the talk is over. Thank God.
The question-and-answers period began. Juan Maldacena, the author of what most top people in high-energy physics consider the greatest breakthrough of theoretical physics in the last 15 years (the 1997 AdS/CFT correspondence), among a hundred of other papers, asks whether geoengineering is a suitable alternative solution to the extra taxes and duties that Hansen has promoted.
Now, we agreed with my contact at IAS that Hansen probably doesn't know who Maldacena even is. This is a crazy world given the fact that Hansen, a random average activist employed in an inferior discipline of physical sciences, is now known to Maldacena.
Hansen answers that we are "already doing geoengineering" by emitting CO2. Well, it is not quite a Maldacena-level-sophisticated geoengineering, I guess. ;-) Carbon sequesteration is the only acceptable geoengineering for Hansen. He admits that aerosols etc. could cool the planet but it would not solve the ocean acidification problem or the main problem he truly cares about, namely how to cripple the world economy.
Unless the price is high, we will consume the fossil fuels, Hansen correctly says. It's as clear as the law of gravity; however, Hansen didn't manage to describe the situation of gravity from the boundary CFT, gauge-theoretical perspective. ;-)
Instead of talking about the topic of the question - geoengineering - Hansen returns to his mentally ill delusions about collapsing ice sheets and other tragedies that have nothing to do with the question. He is really incapable to focus on science.
He eventually returns to the question and says that "covering one pollutant by another is not a sensible thing to do". That's it. However, he immediately stops thinking about any technicalities and returns to his clichés that energy has to be expensive so that people don't "waste" it.
The second question, by a female listener, was about the population growth. How does it fit into your picture? Hansen is "optimistic" because the population growth is slowed down. Even the population in China, which allows 2 children to the people born in the 1-child policy era, will continue to decline. Only the poor countries keeps on growing but it's "solvable". Many children become "unpopular" among women once they are educated, he adds when a new question is already being asked.
The duties that are collected on the borders should be sent to the poor countries - previously, he said that they should be given to the U.S. citizens to adapt to a life without a cheap energy. But the money shouldn't flow to arbitrary poor countries. They should be paid to poor countries' projects to decelerate or decimate their own populations to create a "sustainable Earth". Holy cow, this guy is a complete loon.
I haven't understood what this man really meant. He referred to the first slide about the expert-public gap. However, what's the question? The man asked something about how affirmative action may address the expert-public knowledge gap? Holy crap, how is it supposed to work? Affirmative action may indeed reduce the gap because more incompetent people may "officially" become experts. Well, it has already happened in climate science.
Hansen complains that the Big Oil has done a terrific job in convincing the people that they don't want the economies to collapse and that the scientists are making stuff up to get more research grants. Indeed, it's probably not too difficult to do a good job in explaining these self-evident facts.
James Hansen says that the situation is much better in China because the government can simply s*it on the citizens and manipulate with their opinions but it's much worse in the U.S. with the f*cking democracy. See also Hansen's op-ed praising the Chinese communists and his comparison of China with the barbarians - the worst ones are not even communists, could you believe?
But he thinks that they have to use the democratic process, too. That's why he bribed and forced his granddaughter to write a letter to the U.S. president saying that Obama is obliged to obey the granddad's orders - aside from the Chinese democracy, it is the closest thing to "democracy" that Hansen may imagine. ;-)
New Real Climate blog
Another female participant asks why there can't be a fabulous blog that answers all the questions - something like "Factcheck.org", she says. Well, the answer is that such a blog already exists. Dozens of them. The more details are being analyzed on the Internet, or anywhere outside the intellectually rotten corners of the AGW religious cult, for that matter, the more clear it becomes that the likes of Hansen are fanatical, deluded, and dishonest crooks.
So dear lady, as Hansen knows very well, the right solution that improves the propagation of this ideology is not to create new websites but, following the example of non-democratic countries, to prevent the citizens from learning the truth and from talking or thinking about the issues rationally. Censorship, blackmailing, and harassment are indeed the only tools to make your lies - or any lies - systematically spread. Yes, that's how Michael Mann and others have been approaching the problem at least for a decade.
The lady even proposes that Rush Holt, a Democratic Congressman who attended the IAS lecture, should become responsible for creating the "website of the only allowed truth".
Hansen says that the only thing that should matter is a political declaration of the holiest scientific institution, the National Academy of Sciences, which would always approve Hansen's own delusions, he thinks. But Obama didn't ask the Academy to do so. Clearly, Hansen is totally avoiding the question - about a new website - once again. Instead, out of context, he attacks dirty jobs of the miners.
One more attack against Norway and tar sands is added - away from any context of the question. A Norwegian politician wrote Hansen that it's not government's job to interfere with the commercial sector's decisions. That drove Hansen up the wall: what the government is good for if it can't screw private subjects at will? Every good government of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Zedong was doing such things all the time. Stalin has even executed 40 million inconvenient people - and the Norwegian government is unable to even destroy one f*cking tar sand company? Hansen is deeply disappointed.
A man asks why (Hansen thinks that) there is more money on the "dirty side". Shouldn't the insurance companies etc. be stimulated to fight against climate change?
The reality is, of course, that there are vastly more money on the alarmist side than the skeptic side of the debate. That was also the reason why California recently insanely preserved its dinosaur law to regulate the carbon: the champions of the regulation have outspent its foes by a large factor. In the scholarly and think-tank spheres, the funding for the alarmists outweighs the funding for the realists by three orders of magnitude.
Hansen says that there is money on both sides and the stalemate is enough for the skeptics to win. I actually agree with him and thank God it is so. When he says that the media is more "fair and balanced", the far left part of the audience explodes in laughter.
A man is confused why people think that a warmer world would produce more drought. That seems to contradict some historical records - as well as common sense that a warmer world leads to more evaporation and more moisture.
Hansen argues that a warmer world enhances both extremes but he presents no real evidence for this bold statement - except for some anecdotal comment about the recent increase of 100-year floods. Clearly, such floods were not comprehensively monitored more than 100 years ago so one can't really calculate the trend.
To summarize, there could be some humanity types at the IAS who would find this talk OK but I think that the IAS scientists had to see that Hansen is not really one of them. He is not a scientist. He is a fanatically obsessed activist who has lost his ability to look at the world objectively decades ago.
And that's the memo.