It is 30 years this past week that Dr. James Hansen, then well into the first of more than three decades as head of the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)-Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to a U.S. Senate committee that the then-current heat wave in Washington was caused by the relationship between “the greenhouse effect and observed warming.” This was the starting gun of a mighty debate about the existence, cause and consequences of global warming. Hansen was embraced by the environmental movement, from authentic scientists like David Suzuki to well-meaning faddists like the Prince of Wales, to cynical interlopers from the defeated international left grasping at anything to debunk and confound capitalism, like Naomi Klein, to complete charlatans like former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.
In his testimony, Hansen described three possible courses for the world’s climate, depending on public policy. Business as usual was the first case, which would accelerate carbon dioxide emissions, at the same rate of annual increase it had reached in the late 1980s, which, he said, would produce a one Celsius degree increase in the world’s temperature within 30 years. The second case, which Hansen believed the most likely, was that emissions would increase at the same rate they had achieved in 1988, but not greater, which would produce a world temperature increase of seven-tenths of one Celsius degree by now. And the last case, which he preferred but for which he was not hopeful, was that carbon emissions would be reduced somewhat after 2000, which would cause a slight increase in temperature until 2000, and a stable temperature afterwards. It is the third result that has occurred: unchanged world temperatures since 2000, apart from 2015-2016; then the temperature rose slightly after a heavy El Nino, and then receded again although world carbon emissions have increased moderately.
No ice has been lost by Greenland, other than what melts every summer and then forms again, and water levels have not moved appreciably
Parallel predictions were made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which forecast temperature increases twice as great as occurred in the period up to 2000, with accelerating increases in the years since, when the temperature has been flat (with the exception of the one year mentioned). Hansen also predicted exceptional warming in the Southeast and Midwest of the United States, which has not occurred either. As his predictions were battered and defied by the facts, Hansen reinforced his expressions of ecological gloom and in 2007 predicted that all Greenland’s ice would melt and that ocean levels would rise by seven metres within 100 years. We have only had 11 years, but no ice has been lost by Greenland, other than what melts every summer and then forms again, and water levels have not moved appreciably. Undaunted, Professor Hansen pressed on like the Ancient Mariner, or Captain Bligh. Hurricanes and tornadoes, at least in the United States, would become stronger, a prediction repeated by the American left’s favourite weatherman, Sen. Bernie Sanders. None of it has occurred, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, despite the strength of last year’s hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.
In any event, Hansen’s predictions have all bombed and he has not recanted. His polyglot and multi-motivated echo chamber, including Dr. Michael Mann and his infamous “hockey stick” of sharply rising temperatures, have had their noses rubbed in the fiction of increasing world temperatures throughout this new millennium. Every sane person is opposed to the pollution of the environment and there is a practically universal consensus to reduce automobile exhaust emissions, ensure industrial smoke goes through scrubbers, and that all contaminated water is thoroughly treated before being returned to nature. Every serious person agrees that we must, as a species, show extreme vigilance in exercising man’s unique ability to tamper with and alter the environment. We are the stewards of the world and its environment and there are few who would dispute that until comparatively recently, we have not taken that responsibility very seriously. The Industrial Revolution had been thundering in Europe and North America for nearly a century, and in Japan for half a century, before even basic conservation, such as national parks, got its green foot in the public policy door.
But there is no justification whatever for the self-punitive nonsense of the Paris climate accord, where the administration of president Barack Obama committed to garrote American industry with costs of tens of billions of dollars to reduce carbon emissions, even as the world’s principal offenders, China and India, and most other countries, solemnly declined to moderate their darkening of the skies and their putrefaction of the waters until their economic revolution, involving billions of people, had been completed. The lessons of all this are clear, but most of our political and academic leaders are so far over-invested in defending against something that is not happening, they continue to call for the sacrifice of others, the deindustrialization of the West, the self-imposition of a holy economic torpor so, in the post-industrial silence we can all contemplate the pristine serenity of self-impoverishment (and the joys of Chinese world domination).
Most of our political and academic leaders are so far over-invested in defending against something that is not happening, they continue to call for the sacrifice of others