The NYTimes leads today with the news that the Bush Administration has in recent weeks tried to silence James Hansen, the most widely known climatologist in the country, ever since he gave a speech on global warming in December.
He said it still might be possible to avoid disaster.
If we act now, reduce our fossil fuel consumption, and–most importantly–do not build a new infrastructure of power plants, we can avoid disaster.
If we go ahead with what is known as the business-as-usual scenario aggressively promoted by the Bush administration, the changes already occuring will accelerate, our children will face disaster, and our grandchildren will inherit "a different planet."
In his potent speech a couple of weeks ago, Al Gore alluded to this attempt to silence Hansen; evidently reporter Andrew Revkin got the go-ahead to follow up.
This is big news not because of what Hansen said; he’s been saying the same thing for years and years. It’s big news because the Bush administration once again shows what it really cares about, which has nothing to do with fact, the planet, or public policy, and everything to do with not embarrssing George W. Bush.
White House appointee and public relations specialist George Deutsch oversees the NASA agency for which Hansen works. His job, he said, is "to make the President look good." So he refused to allow Hansen to talk to NPR.
This will only bring more attention to what Hansen is saying, however, which is good. Here’s a pdf version of the speech Hansen gave on December 6 to the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, with slides Download keeling_talk_and_slides.pdf.
It’s a thorough but relatively easy to follow discussion, with a very simple point: If we want the maintain the seas, the coral reefs, the glaciers, the weather, and the climate we have now, within a 1C range, we must not build the hundreds of power plants (and especially coal plants) that are proposed and eagerly encouraged by the Bush administration. Not too complicated!
In years past, critics (often funded by Exxon) claimed that modelers like Hansen were way off base, for a variety of highly-technical reasons, and derided their predictions. Take a look at this graph, which shows five different models, compared against observations.
It’s remarkable how accurate the modelers have been. In a just world, we would be commending them for reducing the astounding complexity of our atmosphere to a mathematical model that precisely reflects our planet’s behavior. Instead, the powers that be want to shut them up. Amazing.
Another observation worth noting. If we wish to avoid disaster, either we can change our behavior with regard to energy production…or pray for the eruption of enormous volcanoes to blanket the earth in cloud and soot for decades to come.