JR: “Leading climate scientists have given their support to a Freedom of Information request seeking to disclose who is funding the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate sceptic thinktank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson.” As the UK Guardian reported earlier this week, “James Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies who first warned the world about the dangers of climate change in the 1980s, has joined other scientists in submitting statements to be considered by a judge at the Information Rights Tribunal on Friday.” Hansen has posted “Cowards in Our Democracies: Part 1” — his submitted statement and an explanatory intro — which I repost below.
by James Hansen
Global warming due to human-made gases, mainly CO2, is already 0.8°C and deleterious climate impacts are growing worldwide. More warming is “in the pipeline” because Earth is out of energy balance, with absorbed solar energy exceeding planetary heat radiation. Maintaining a climate that resembles the Holocene, the world of stable shorelines in which civilization developed, requires rapidly reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions. Such a scenario is economically sensible and has multiple benefits for humanity and other species. Yet fossil fuel extraction is expanding, including highly carbon-intensive sources that can push the climate system beyond tipping points such that amplifying feedbacks drive further climate change that is practically out of humanity’s control. This situation raises profound moral issues as young people, future generations, and nature, with no possibility of protecting their future well-being, will bear the principal consequences of actions and inactions of today’s adults….
The public has the right to know who is supporting the foot soldiers for business-as-usual and to learn about the web of support for the propaganda machine that serves to keep the public addicted to fossil fuels and destroys the future of their children.
Figure 1. CO2 emissions by fossil fuels (1 ppm CO2 ~ 2.12 GtC, where ppm is parts per million of CO2 in air and GtC is gigatons of carbon). Alternative estimates of reserves and potentially recoverable resources are from EIA (2011) and GAC (2011). [JR: Significantly exceeding 450 ppm risks severe, irreversible warming impacts. We are headed toward 800 to 1,000+ ppm, which represents the near-certain destruction of modern civilization as we know it -- as the recent scientific literature makes chillingly clear.]
The threat of human-made climate change and the urgency of reducing fossil fuel emissions have become increasingly clear to the scientific community during the past few years. Yet, at the same time, the public seems to have become less certain about the situation. Indeed, many people have begun to wonder whether the climate threat has been concocted or exaggerated.
Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage.
The scientific method requires objective analysis of all data, stating evidence pro and con, before reaching conclusions. This works well, indeed is necessary, for achieving success in science. But science is now pitted in public debate against the talk-show method, which consists of selective citation of anecdotal bits that support a predetermined position.
Why is the public presented results of the scientific method and the talk-show method as if they deserved equal respect? A few decades ago that did not happen. In 1981, when I wrote a then-controversial paper (http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha04600x.html) about the impact of CO2 on climate, the science writer Walter Sullivan contacted several of the top relevant scientific experts in the world for comments. He did not mislead the public by dredging up and highlighting contrarian opinion for the sake of a forced and unnatural “balance”.
Today most media, even publicly-supported media, are pressured to balance every climate story with opinions of contrarians, climate change deniers, as if they had equal scientific credibility. Media are dependent on advertising revenue of the fossil fuel industry, and in some cases are owned by people with an interest in continuing business as usual. Fossil fuel profiteers can readily find a few percent of the scientific community to serve as mouthpieces — all scientists practice skepticism, and it is not hard to find some who are out of their area of expertise, who may enjoy being in the public eye, and who are limited in scientific insight and analytic ability.
Distinguished scientific bodies such as national science academies, using the scientific method, can readily separate charlatans and false interpretations from well-reasoned science. Yet it seems that our governments and the public are not making much use of their authoritative scientific bodies. Why is that?