Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanour changes.John Kerry rejects leading climate scientist’s claim Paris talks were ‘fraud’ Read more“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”
Hansen has been a nagging yet respected voice on climate change since he shot to prominence in the summer of 1988. The Nasa scientists, who had been analyzing changes in the Earth’s climate since the 1970s, told a congressional committee that something called the “greenhouse effect” where heat-trapped gases are released into the atmosphere was causing global warming with a 99% certainty.
A New York Times report of the 1988 testimony includes the radical suggestion that there should be a “sharp reduction in the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide”, a plea familiar to those who have watched politicians who have traipsed up to the lectern or interviewer’s microphone in Paris over the past two weeks.
After that, things started to get a little difficult for Hansen. He claims the White House altered subsequent testimony, given in 1989, and that Nasa appointed a media overseer who vetted what he said to the press. They held practice press conferences where any suggestion that fossil fuels be reduced was considered political and unscientific, and therefore should not be uttered.