Swift-Boating James Hansen

After Ron in the comments of this blog circulated a claim that our nation’s top climate scientist “once warned of Ice Age” — I (and no doubt many others) emailed Hansen and said he should reply to the rapidly morphing and spreading myth. He has here.

I will reprint what he has to say below (you can also go to that link for an interesting commentary “Please talk to your grandfather”):

In 1976, with four colleagues, I wrote my first paper on climate (Science, 194, 685-690, 1976). Based on the suggestion of Yuk Yung, one of the co-authors, we examined, for the first time, whether several human-made trace gases might have an important greenhouse effect (until then, only carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons had been considered). We found that methane and nitrous oxide were likely to be important, though measurements of how these gases might be changing were not yet available. Starting then I became interested, very interested, in the Earth’s climate; indeed, two years later I resigned as Principal Investigator of an experiment on its way to Venus so that I could devote full time to studies of the Earth’s climate.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I began to be inundated a few days ago with reports that I had issued proclamations five years earlier, in 1971, that the Earth was headed into an ice age.

Here is how this swift-boating works. First on 19 September 2007 a Washington Times article by John McCaslin reported that a 9 July 1971 article by Victor Cohn in the Washington Post had been discovered with the title “U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming”. The scientist, S.I. Rasool, is reported as saying that the world “could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age”.

This is an old story: Rasool and (Steve) Schneider published a paper in Science on that day noting that if human-made aerosols (small particles in the air) increased by a factor of four, other things being equal, they could cause massive global cooling. At Steve’s 60th birthday celebration I argued that the Rasool and Schneider paper was a useful scientific paper, an example of hypothesis testing, in the spirit of good science. But what is the news today? Mr. McCaslin reported that Rasool and Hansen were colleagues at NASA and “Mr. Rasool came to his chilling conclusions by resorting in part to a new computer program developed by Mr. Hansen that studied clouds above Venus.”
What was that program? It was a ‘Mie scattering’ code I had written to calculate light scattering by spherical particles. Indeed, it was useful for Venus studies, as it helped determine the size and refractive index of the particles in the clouds that veil the surface of Venus. I was glad to let Rasool and Schneider use that program to calculate scattering by aerosols. But Mie scattering functions, although more complex, are like sine and cosine mathematical functions, simply a useful tool for many problems. Allowing this scattering function to be used by other people does not in any way make me responsible for a climate theory.
Yet as this story passes from one swift boater to another it gets juicier and juicier, e.g.:

Global Warming Scientist Once Warned of ‘Ice Age’
By Doug Ware —

[I won’t reprint the whole piece of nonsense here]

It is little wonder that I have been getting nasty e-mails the past several days.

The lesson is — don’t believe everything you read in the press, especially the conservative press.

17 Responses to Swift-Boating James Hansen

  1. jay alt says:

    Nice work Joe, I knew it wasn’t true because Hansen wasn’t even working on earth climate at the time.

    I suggest a size restriction on comments and multiple postings or things along those lines. Quality, not quantity.

  2. Ron says:

    Wow! I’m almost famous!

    But did you ask Mr. Hansen about my much more important point that AGW is still just a hypothesis?

    I have no doubt that after 30 years climate models (and computer models in general, of course) are much better and getting better all the time. However, they still don’t adequately mirror actual climate observations. And I don’t think one can take that as proof of anything – pro or con. Did he read what I had written?

    I don’t expect him to necessarily comment on my what I’ve said about the politics surrounding the issue, but I would be very interested to hear his comments on my take on the science.


    PS – Give him my email, if you’d like.

    PPS – I also agree with “the lesson” above, but would have to say it goes for all of the media, of any political stripe.

  3. Jörg says:

    Climate Progress website –
    You have a problem. Poster’s names and e-mail addresses are showing up in my reply box, presumably from someone who recently posted. You need to fix that.

    Not Jorg in the USA

  4. IANVS says:


    While you’ve had your 15 posts of fame, oblivion is at your doorstep. Jim Hansen has more pressing matters at hand, like educating sincere & honest Americans to the increasing dangers of AGW.

    Keep up the good work, Jim. My kids & grandkids are counting on you.

  5. IANVS says:


    “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.” – Harry Truman

    No relation?

  6. Ron says:


    “When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, holler. ”
    – Al Gore

    Any relation?

  7. Ron says:

    And can anybody argue the science with me?

  8. IANVS says:


    And your quotes are like your science… counterfeit.

  9. Tom says:

    Allowing this scattering function to be used by other people does not in any way make me responsible for a climate theory.

    Sorry, that does not cut it with me. These people were his colleagues. It was his responsiblity to understand how they intended to use hismodel and be sure that it was used correctly. This was a big enough story in 1971 that he should have responded at the time if you disagreed with it.

  10. IANVS says:


    Alias Ron already threw that red herring.

  11. Tom says:

    It is not a red herring. It is called professional responsibility. He was either irresponsible them or he is trying to distance himself now from a very embarrasing result.

    I work in the field of computer simulations. The first thing you do when you give a model to someone is you ask them what they intend to use it for to be sure it is setup appropriately for them.

    Calling it a “red herring” does not make that fact go away.
    Hansen was part of a team that in 1971 predicted global cooling.

  12. Tom says:

    This was not the last time Hansen has demonstrated a lack of profesional responsibility:

    In March of 2004, James Hanses wrote in Scientific American,
    …Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue and energy sources such as synfuels, shale oil and and tar sands were receiving strong consideration. Now, however, the need is for demonstrating objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions.

    Note that he says that only now he is trying to be objective. That means he was not being objective until now. He was intentionally trying to manipulate the public. That should have been the end of him right there and then. A scientist should NEVER MANIPULATE ANYTHING. HE MUST ALWAYS BE OBJECTIVE.

    When can you believe someone who admits he was lying to you in the past when he only admits it after the fact?

    Why do you guys support Hansen?

    Why do you want to believe this fairy tail?

  13. Joe says:

    #1 — Nice try. He was not part of a team that predicted global cooling, as he explained. In science, apparently unlike whatever you do, you either have your name on work or you don’t. Back in the early 70s, it wasn’t perfectly clear whether the aerosol cooling would beat out the GHG warming — a few scientists thought aerosols would win. Hansen wasn’t one of them. By the early 80s (even the late 70s for some) it was clear to all that aerosols were declining while GHGs were accelerating and that warming would win hands down. The 1970s cooling stuff is a pure red herring.

    #2 — Not so nice try. That is not what Hansen was saying. You are willfully misinterpreting him. The extreme scenarios were justified because of the possibility we would exploit a significant amount of unconventional oil, thus significantly raising GHGs and the possibility of extreme scenarios.

    I support Hansen because he has been right longer than anyone else, and he has had the courage to speak out even though the Bush administration has tried to muffle him and the Deniers keep trying to swiftboat him.

    Calling human-caused global warming a fairy tale is equivalent to saying that we didn’t land on the moon. Even Bush no longer says it.

  14. Tom says:

    The aersols of 70s look like a red herring now. Wanna bet what the CO2 studies of the current decade are going to look like in thirty years? Hansen’s model was used to back the aresol theory in the 70’s. He let it be used to do that. His name was in that article. If it was so wrong to use his model he should have said something. The story made it all the way to Washington Post.

    It is never OK to present extreme scenarios that you yourself admit are not objective. That is the definition of manipulation. Misrepresenting the facts to get a desired result you are afraid will not occur if things are presented objectively. That should have been the end of him as a respected scientist.

  15. IANVS says:


    That was an even weaker attempt to stink up the board with your red herring.

    Facts are, Jim Hansen is among the best of many climate scientists who are researching and discovering with increasing certainty and accuracy that AGW is causing accelerated melting of glaciers and sea ice, rising sea-levels, worsening drought & wildfires, and growing intensity of hurricanes, etc.

    And now the American public knows too…

    “Nearly 60 percent said global warming is a “serious problem,”… 43 percent of voters feel global warming is a “very serious” problem. Only 15 percent of those polled did not think global warming was a serious problem.”

    Global warming of more concern

  16. IANVS says:


    Jim Hansen is another of the world’s best climate scientists who are diligently researching and determing with increasing certainty and accuracy that AGW is causing the accelerating melting of glaciers and polar ice, rising sea-levels, worsening drought, and intensifying hurricanes.

    And, despite your feeble strut & fret upon the stage, the American public now knows the dangers and the urgency…

    “Nearly 60 percent said global warming is a “serious problem,… 43 percent of voters feel global warming is a “very serious” problem. Only 15 percent of those polled did not think global warming was a serious problem.”

    Global warming of more concern

  17. IANVS says:


    Sorry again for the dupes, but the security of your website is compromised. Need to fix ASAP.