Skip to content

James Hansen Calls Green New Deal “Nonsense”

April 30, 2019

By Paul Homewood


h/t Robin Guenier


From Grist:


In the 1980s, NASA scientist James Hansen brought climate change to the attention of Congress, and shortly thereafter the public. Humans, he testified in 1988, were responsible for rising global temperatures.

But the man who put his reputation on the line to alert the world to the dangers of global warming doesn’t appear to agree with the most recent crop of climate advocates.

In April 20 debate with Sunrise Movement’s Varshini Prakash and Christian Aid’s Amanda Mukwashi, Hansen called the Green New Deal “nonsense.”

Hosted by Al Jazeera, the 12-minute debate highlights a growing fault line between two theories of climate action. Among progressives and environmental justice advocates, the Green New Deal represents a last-ditch, economy-wide overhaul. Hansen, on the other hand, seems to argue for a more economically incremental approach that is centered on a carbon tax.

That tension came to a head when Hansen appeared visibly aggravated by the progressive proposal and Prakash, realizing that one of the most prominent climate scientists in the world was scoffing at her organization’s central focus, could only laugh in disbelief.

Although Hansen is a proponent of using technology to bring down emissions, a carbon tax, he said, “is the underlying policy required. People need energy, we need to make the price of fossil fuels include their cost to society.”

The green new dealers, on the other hand, think their predecessors are offering too little too late. Prakash referenced a “point of no return” during the debate, a threshold past which temperatures rise so much that they trigger a series of unstoppable and catastrophic feedback loops. That kind of outcome can only be stopped by drastic action, she argued. When I spoke to Sunrise’s Evan Weber late last year, he indicated that the organization wasn’t actively pursuing a carbon tax.

What was most striking about Hansen’s argument was his measured tone, a stark difference from the way even the typically staid scientists behind the U.N’s IPCC report are beginning to discuss the issue.

“We should be phasing down emissions now,” he said, which seems like a bit of an understatement considering he’s been advocating for decreased emissions for the last, oh, four decades. “If we do that, we will get a little bit warmer than we are now, and then temperature(s) can begin to decline,” he said, adding that we will have to phase out fossil fuels over the “next several decades” in order to accomplish this goal.


Despite his alarmist reputation, Hansen clearly does not believe the nonsense about having 12 years to save the planet.

According to David Attenborough, the “settled science” tells us that we must halve global emissions by 2030, and completely eliminate them by 2050.

But Hansen’s softly, softly approach won’t do anything of the sort. Quite apart from anything else, will India, China and the rest of the developing world take the blindest bit of notice of a carbon tax in the US? (Where, incidentally, CO2 emissions have been steadily falling, and are 13% lower than a decade ago).

But what exactly will a carbon tax achieve, other than to make energy more expensive for consumers?

After all, we already have a form of carbon tax in the UK. It is called fuel duty, and seems to have done little to reduce consumption. As Hansen rightly says, people need energy, and if you put the price up, it simply means they have less to spend on other things.

The logic of course is that a punitive carbon tax will eventually make renewable energy competitive. But there is no evidence that wind and solar power can replace fossil fuels and nuclear power in our energy mix to any significant extent.

  1. April 30, 2019 10:59 am

    You have to admire the scientific ignorance of these dangerous idiots. Surely they are aware that the Earth’s temperature and CO2 levels have been much higher in the past and no catastrophic feedback loops happened. Or can nature distinguish between natural and “man made” c02?

  2. Harry Passfield permalink
    April 30, 2019 11:23 am

    I don’t know about 2050 for 0-C but Miliband was arguing this morning that it should be 2030, although he would accept 2035.

  3. Ken Pollock permalink
    April 30, 2019 11:38 am

    The key fallacy for me is the concept of a “tipping point”. I know of nowhere in nature where such things occur, except for exciting a rod around its natural frequency, where positive feedback results in fracture. Nature does not work like that, but it is useful idea to scare people into believing we are reaching a point of no return. It all adds urgency and hence the need for immediate action. Sadly for them, the premise is flawed…

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      April 30, 2019 2:45 pm

      Exactly right. There is zero evidence for a tipping point, and no serious actual scientist has shown why there should be. It is a monstrous lie.

      • Ken Pollock permalink
        April 30, 2019 3:52 pm

        Phoenix44 – very gratifying to read your comments. That makes two of us…It’s a start! passed your note on to the two professors in UCL involved in the TV programme. Awaiting a reply…

    • jack broughton permalink
      May 1, 2019 10:32 am

      Made a pot of gold for Malcolm Bradwell. The public like semi-science provided that it is non-mathematical. The infamous “butterfly” of Chaos Theory is a similar credible-at-first-sight concept that stands little scrutiny. These concepts are at the heart of all fear campaigns along with tame “experts and scientists”, e.g. the “Cliff-edge” of “Crashing-out” in Brexit.

  4. FrCh permalink
    April 30, 2019 12:05 pm

    Frankly I respect him. I don’t know if he apologized for his former overly alarmist predictions of sea level rise and criminality in New York. But he’s reasonable about the policies and he’s not an hypocrite. His models were strangely more accurate than CMIP5. His two opponents don’t stand a chance against him in a longer debate.

  5. April 30, 2019 1:14 pm

    When James Hansen is the calm voice of reason we are living in the strangest of times.
    The nutcase who, with Senator Tim Wirth, sabotaged Congress’ air conditioning June 1988 in order to kick the warming fraud into world wide prominence is now the moderate surrounded by screaming extremists. Que?

    The world makes sane progress, yes? NO.

    Our current energy policies are under the charge of ninnies who pretend to be frightened of Earth tremors smaller than those made by an underground train. Construction & quarrying work are allowed far larger tremors.

    This is sane, yes? NO.

    Our future energy policies may fall under the guidance of an unreformed Stalinist so hungry for power he will use as figurehead an autistic 16 year old Swede & for TV impact a herd of the ignorant unwashed: “They’re sure not being sponsored by soap manufacturers, John.” said a friend who got downwind. Jezza’s elder brother is an astrophysicist with the facts at his fingertips.

    This is sane, yes? NO.

    The graph above shows clearly no runaway warming ever, in 4.6 billion yrs. No matter the CO2 concentrations: no tipping points, no catastrophic feedback loops. EVER.
    The Earth’s temperatures vary within stable limits, in between which we can survive OK, given decent energy supplies. There is no CO2/temperature correlation visible.

    Vostok ice core data show clearly that CO2 concentrations lag temperature rises.
    CO2 rises are an effect, not cause, of warming.
    Our govt, intergovernmental & media systems, all under the control of the money 1%s conspire to sell us the opposite. This is suicidal, for nations & for populations.

    This is sane, yes? No.

    Interesting times folks.
    John Doran.

    • April 30, 2019 2:30 pm

      Sorry, I think the above graph is incorrect. I reckon it’s a ~600 million year graph, not 4.6 billion years, as it seems to have been marked up.

  6. April 30, 2019 1:27 pm

    We have been hearing, “10 years until destruction” for everything from earth to oceans since the 1980’s. I cannot help but notice we are still here.

    Unfortunately, so are the chorus of yappers. The fact that 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, 40 years pass without a single one of their dire predictions coming to pass simply does not phase them.

  7. dennisambler permalink
    April 30, 2019 2:22 pm
    Countdown to Global Catastrophe

    “The countdown to climate-change catastrophe is spelt out by a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world – and it is remarkably brief.

    In as little as 10 years, or even less, their report indicates, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached.”

    Scientists Ask Why World Climate Is Changing – NYT 1975

    “Sooner or later a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable. Hints that it may already have begun are evident. The drop in mean temperatures since 1950 in the Northern Hemisphere has been sufficient, for example, to shorten Britain’s growing season for crops by two weeks.

    The first half of this century has apparently been the warmest period since the “hot spell” between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago immediately following the last ice age. That the climate, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, has been getting cooler since about 1950, is well established—if one ignores the last two winters.

    The observatory atop Mauna Loa, the great Hawaiian volcano, has recorded a steady rise in the annual mean level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, amounting to 4 per cent between 1958 and 1972. That, however, was a period of global cooling—not the reverse, as one would expect from a greenhouse effect.”

    156 AD
    The Roman philosopher Tertullian:
    At the core of Tertullian’s teachings lay his bitter admonition that life in the 2nd century had become too extravagant, too wasteful, and that population growth had run out of control. Mankind was raping the Earth of its resources, he warned grimly “…we men have actually become a burden to the Earth … the Earth can no longer support us …” And, to escape total planetary destruction, mankind had to withdraw to the past and practice severe asceticism, living in a simpler more natural state.

    I suspect that Tertullian is probably a distant ancestor of David Attenborough.

  8. Broadlands permalink
    April 30, 2019 2:28 pm

    Regardless of the model predictions, dire, catastrophic or not, humanity can lower carbon emissions but cannot meaningfully lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. At best, the so-called negative emission technology that Dr. Hansen and others espouse as necessary can capture and geologically store oxidized carbon by the MILLIONS of tonnes when BILLIONS of tonnes are required. It is simply not possible to affect the Earth’s climate by storing one or two parts-per-million of CO2 which would weigh eight to sixteen billion tonnes… 7,800 to 15,600 million tonnes! Why Dr. Hansen and these other alarmed people don’t get it will be a puzzle for historians to sort out. It is a fact that will not go away. Carbon weighs a lot when oxygen is added. Try lifting a cubic meter of dry ice. Scale it up. Compress CO2 and inject it geologically…hundreds of billions of tonnes of it. Not possible. Taxing it by the tonne?

  9. Phoenix44 permalink
    April 30, 2019 2:43 pm

    No, you are missing the point entirely about carbon tax. Correctly pricing something is absolutely essential, as every right-wing economist will tell you. A carbon tax makes sure that energy costs the right amount, because it interludes the cost of externalities. It then allows us to decide what to spend our money on, what to invest in, and sets the correct cost for alternatives to have to meet.

    If you have a proper carbon tax, you reduce taxes elsewhere, so that people have the same amount of post-tax income to spend. They then allocate their resources accordingly.

    Having sensible, market-orienatted right-wingers dismissing carbon taxes on economic grounds is just embarrassing.

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      April 30, 2019 3:04 pm

      Maybe … but, as Paul says:

      Quite apart from anything else, will India, China and the rest of the developing world take the blindest bit of notice of a carbon tax in the US?

    • Broadlands permalink
      April 30, 2019 3:51 pm

      Taxing 60 parts-per-million of CO2…. more than 460 billion tonnes of oxidized carbon…BY THE TONNE? That will add to the cost of capture and storage of those thousands of millions of tonnes. The amounts are cosmic in scale. That’s the point. Storing millions when thousands of millions are required. It can’t be done, regardless of the costs. Do the math.

    • April 30, 2019 4:15 pm

      But what is the “cost of externalities” for CO2?

      • Broadlands permalink
        April 30, 2019 6:43 pm

        Externalities: “…the harmful effect of the pollution (smog, acid rain, global warming) on human health and the environment is not factored in as a cost in the overall economic equation. And as the economists go, so go the governments that rely on them. The result is that most nations do not consider environmental and other externalities in their calculations of gross domestic product (GDP) and other key economic indicators (which by extension are supposed to be indicators of public health and well-being).”

        “For decades environmentalists have argued that economics should take into account the costs borne by such externalities in order to discern the true overall value to society of any given action or activity. The company or utility that operates the polluting factory, for instance, should be required to compensate the larger society by paying for the pollution it produces so as to offset the harm it does.”

        The economic and social harm that will be imposed by attempting to capture and safely store billions of tonnes of oxidized carbon will be borne by the seven-plus billion people. This activity will far outweigh other considerations. Do the math on 370 billion tonnes at any plausible cost-per-ton stored. This will be added to the already large cost of transitioning to other energy sources. Completely absurd.

    • JerryC permalink
      April 30, 2019 6:41 pm

      If you have a proper carbon tax, you reduce taxes elsewhere, so that people have the same amount of post-tax income to spend. They then allocate their resources accordingly.

      Things may work like this in Libertarian Think Tank World, but it would never happen that way in reality. The carbon tax would go into effect, but the offsetting tax reductions wouldn’t happen for one reason or another.

    • David Albert permalink
      April 30, 2019 9:36 pm

      “Having sensible, market-orienatted right-wingers dismissing carbon taxes on economic grounds is just embarrassing.”
      An energy tax is the most regressive tax you can imagine. The cost of the tax is born by the consumer. The working student who has no spare income has to pay the same as the wealthy couple with two 6 figure incomes and she needs more heat per square foot of her poorly constructed apartment than the couple need for their well built house. She has no choice but to heat less. The couple will hardly notice the difference. The bottom line is that a tax on carbon dioxide is painful for the poor not noticed by the rich and has no effect on on atmospheric CO2 because atmospheric CO2 it is not responsive to changing human emissions( )

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 30, 2019 11:56 pm

      Putting a price on indulgences is not a market approach. Ask a “right winger” about it.

      Note that a Pigou tax is just government collecting money cos reasons. It’s just a tax. Calling it a ‘carbon tax’ makes it acceptable to you. Don’t be so gullible. Again, ask a “right winger” about it. We’re here to help you.

    • manicbeancounter permalink
      May 1, 2019 12:24 pm

      A carbon tax is theoretically optimal, but certain conditions have to be met. Even then, Prof William Nordhaus of Yale worked out last year, the optimal policy is very much more limited than the aims of the Paris Agreement. In UN terms, the optimal policy is to constrain warming to 3.5C, as against 4.1C for no policy and the 1.5C and 2.0C as the dreaded barriers we should not cross. Nordhaus (who shared the Nobel Prize in Economics last year for his work) estimates that optimal policy makes very little difference from no policy.
      Most policies being pursued are sub-optimal. But more importantly, most countries are little involved in the process. As Nordhaus states

      Countries have agreed on a target temperature limit of 2°C, but this is far removed from actual policies, and is probably infeasible, as will be seen below.
      The reality is that most countries are on a business-as-usual (BAU) trajectory of minimal policies to reduce their emissions; they are taking noncooperative policies that are in their national interest, but far from ones which would represent a global cooperative policy.

      The implication is that even if it is net beneficial for global mitigation policies to be enacted, under current global political realities any country pursuing aggressive climate mitigation policies will be making their countries worse off. The best policy for believers in climate catastrophism is to do as little as possible, appear to do something much greater, and get other countries to inflict the aggressive mitigation policies on their peoples.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 1, 2019 5:54 pm

      LOL ‘the right amout’. So we’ll be adding in all the full-life costs of wind/solar that are currently being ignored:- raw material and manufacturing pollution, environmental/wildlife harm, ocean micro-plastic pollution, massive land use and amenity loss, visual harm, decommissioning/recycling, and the cost of 100% fossil fuel back up shall we?

      Has there ever been a new tax in history that meant other taxes became cheaper? It just becomes another pot of other people’s money for governments to waste.

      I can only think Phoenix44 was being sarcastic, because no one could write such deluded absurdities with a straight face.

  10. April 30, 2019 3:08 pm

    The greenblob doesn’t like Hansen because he is an advocate of nuclear power as the best technology to reduce emissions.

  11. Robin Guenier permalink
    April 30, 2019 3:13 pm

    I wonder if David Attenborough knows that one of the star guests on his recent BBC programme seriously disagrees with those (including his heroine Ms Thunberg) who support a Green New Deal?

  12. April 30, 2019 8:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  13. Daz permalink
    May 1, 2019 1:31 pm

    The logic of course is that a punitive carbon tax will eventually make renewable energy competitive. ”

    BUT renewable energy relies on fossil fuils in its manufacture , distribution and maintenance therefore increases of carbon taxes just pushes the break even point of renewables further down the road .

    • Ken Pollock permalink
      May 1, 2019 2:22 pm

      Careful now! You will upset a lot of people if you introduce such things as energy needed to make and maintain the renewable energy structures. Surely you know they spring pristine from the earth with no cost and no materials needed to make them, and they last indefinitely without effort. I have just heard a Tory MP talk about alternatives to fossil fuels as electric vehicles and hydrogen. If that is the level of understanding from out leaders, we might as well give up all hope…

  14. Bill Dunnell permalink
    May 1, 2019 4:28 pm

    I love it! Jim acts like humans can control the earths temperature. What do we do when temps start to decline as he asserts? Start driving Suburbans so we can get temps back up?

  15. Ian Phillips permalink
    May 1, 2019 10:55 pm

    Here’s a thought. The carbon taxes are imposed (driving us all mad and undermining the economy to please the “everybody must fail together”, brigade)….natural energy sources grow. But the proponents of this whole charade, behind the scenes, know already that in 20 or more years hence, a natural global cooling will start to be measured..”Hey! Look! We were right all along, shout the alarmists”, especially hereabouts in crazed Totnes, Devon UK…”Our carbon capture and high taxes have saved the planet. But it was nothing to do with C02….just another great leap forward in mass brainwashing and the creation of a world dictatorship.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: