james hansen

Fri, 2014-10-10 07:16Brendan Montague
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How Free Market Thatcher First Called for Climate Action

In the third of three posts charting how climate change became a political issue, we see how Margaret Thatcher, the high priestess of the magical free markets, first took up Hansen's call… 

Margaret Thatcher as British Prime Minister would be the first politician of global stature to address the increasingly urgent concerns about climate change.

Her speech before the Royal Society in September 1988 was a celebration of science but also a clarion call demanding international government action and a personal endorsement of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was just being established. “A nation which does not value trained intelligence is doomed,” she told the fellows. 

Fri, 2014-10-10 00:18Brendan Montague
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James Hansen: 'I Thought There Would Be a Rational Response'

Scientists were warning about the dangers of climate change even before America discovered and used oil on an industrial scale. Here, in the second of three posts, we see how in the 1980s it appeared politicians would rise to the challenges it presents…

James Hansen was the first scientist to detect the current rise in global temperatures, but he certainly was not the first to understand the effect greenhouse gases have on global temperatures.

It was well understood for centuries that without carbon dioxide, the Earth would be too cold to maintain life as we know it. Warnings about climate change in fact predate the discovery of oil.

In 1824, Joseph Fourier discovered the “greenhouse effect” and explained how heat from the sun is trapped in the Earth's atmosphere. In 1861, the Irish scientist John Tyndall confirmed different gases in the atmospheresuch as carbon dioxidecould change the temperature of the planet.

Wed, 2014-10-08 00:17Brendan Montague
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James Hansen: How Climate Change Became Political

Climate science exploded into the political hemisphere on 23rd June 1988 and seemed to require huge government intervention in the markets. So how would the free market politicians react? In the next three posts we see how Margaret Thatcher responds to James Hansen's call to action…

The mercury reached 98 degrees in Washington, DC on Thursday 23rd June 1988, and pearls of sweat could be seen on professor James Hansen's furrowed brow as he stood to give evidence before the United States Senate Committee on energy and natural resources.

“The present temperature is the highest in the period of record,” he murmured. “The rate of warming in the last 25 years” he said pointing at a chart, “as you can see on the right, is the highest on record.”

The NASA scientist read nervously from his prepared statement, titled The Greenhouse Effect: Impacts on Current Global Temperature and Regional Heat Waves. “In my opinion, the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”

Thu, 2014-09-18 10:54Guest
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Sick of Enviro Documentaries? Why You Should Still Watch Disruption

Disruption

This is a guest post by Zach Roberts.

As a documentary producer, I watch more than my fair share of environmental protest documentaries — probably about 20 a year. And almost all of them have the same, vague message: we need to do something!

Their scenes re-play like a bad video montage in my mind: earnest young people speaking at podiums, boring climatologists rambling on about the coming end of the world, forest fires, melting ice shelves, you know how it goes. In the lefty journalism world, we call this “preaching to the choir.”

Then there's Disruption, which is not so much a protest documentary as a call to arms. In an interview, co-director Jared P. Scott classified it under new genre of documentary — 'action films.' These are films that send a clear message about what must be done and then give viewers the information they need to actually get it done. And that's Disruption in a nutshell.

The documentary, made in collaboration with the organizers of the People’s Climate March, uses a mix of familiar footage from the likes of Yann Arthus-Bertrand and new behind-the-scenes footage from organizing meetings for the Sept. 21st protest, set to be the largest climate march in history.

Thu, 2014-03-13 01:59Steve Horn
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General James Jones Didn't Disclose Industry Ties Before Testimony at Keystone XL Hearing

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today (March 13) on the U.S. State Department's national interest determination for the northern half of the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. 

Four witnesses will testify: Keystone XL proponent Karen Alderman Harbert, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy; retired NASA climatologist James Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute and Keystone XL opponent; and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, another critic of the Keystone XL

And then there's James Jones. He's set to testify on behalf of the pipeline, with his affiliation listed as President of Jones Group International. He won't be testifying at the request of the committee's Democrats, but rather its Republicans, even though he formerly served as national security advisor to President Barack Obama.

Described as offering “high level advisory and consulting services in the areas of international energy policy,” Jones Group — which doesn't list its clients — is far from Jones' only career gig.

A DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed Jones has several oil and gas industry ties that weren't disclosed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the hearing.

Among other ties, BuzzFeed recently revealed Jones currently serves as a consultant for the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on behalf of Keystone XL since 2008. Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) — the contractor chosen by the State Department to conduct the environmental review for the pipeline — is an API member.

Friends of the Earth made a public call to Jones to reveal his client list ahead of his Senate testimony.

“Our representatives in Congress have a right to learn all of the pertinent facts about the Keystone XL pipeline unfiltered by corporate special interests,” reads the letter. “Disclosing all relevant payments from interests advocating for or against the pipeline will help our representatives decide how to balance the competing information they are sure to receive.”

Below are some of Jones' clients, revealed by a DeSmogBlog investigation.

Tue, 2014-01-21 12:29Sharon Kelly
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In Push For Nuclear Power, Climate Change Concerns Overlooked

Three years ago the world was reminded of the dangers nuclear energy poses when catastrophe struck Japan at the Fukushima power plant. Since then the gravity of the disaster has grown more evident as cleanup efforts have turned into a debacle. In the last month alone we have seen news of radioactive water leaks at the site, lawsuits from U.S. Navy sailors who responded to the initial disaster and are now developing cancer and ongoing harm to the fishing industry.

The nuclear industry is often portrayed as a climate-neutral alternative to coal and natural gas. An industry-tied movie called Pandora's Promise, recently featured at Sundance and debuted through Netflix and iTunes, has been promoting this very perspective.

But nuclear power plants need cooling water, which means they are often situated on shorelines. That makes these plants more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, such as sea level rise. They are also more at risk of being affected by the ever-growing number and severity of storms tied to climate change, such as Hurricane Sandy.

Case in point: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers recently concluded that a small six-foot-high miniature tsunami that hit near a New Jersey nuclear power plant this summer was not the result of a seismic event (as tsunamis usually are). Instead, the researchers concluded that the surge was caused by a sudden atmospheric pressure change. The nuclear plant, Oyster Creek, did not report any damage. But experts say there was a cautionary lesson on offer: expect the unexpected. Climate change will cause more destructive and seemingly freakish events like this. Emergency planners need to plan for them — especially when the risks are high as is the case with nuclear plants.

Mon, 2013-11-18 05:00Sharon Kelly
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George W. Bush on Keystone XL: "Build the Damn Thing"

Make private companies happy. Don’t worry about the environment. Stop fretting about long-term sustainability. Forget renewables, property concerns, the safety of our water and air. Make private companies happy.

This was the 43rd president's message to the current administration at the DUG East conference held by the shale gas industry on Thursday.

With characteristic bluntness, George W. Bush spoke his mind on energy policy to several thousand oil and gas executives gathered in Pittsburgh at an exclusive luncheon on Wednesday.

“I think the goal of the country ought to be 'how do we grow the private sector?'” Mr. Bush said. “That ought to be the laser-focus of any administration. And therefore, once that’s the goal, an issue like Keystone pipeline becomes a no-brainer.”

“If private sector growth is the goal and Keystone pipeline creates 20,000 new private sector jobs, build the damn thing,” Mr. Bush said, prompting a burst of applause from the more than 4,000 oil and gas executives attending the conference.

In his candor, Mr. Bush also highlighted the essence of what burns bright but short in the fossil-fuel doctrine.

In emphasizing a get-it-now, don’t-worry-about-the-future approach to energy, he drove home why the Keystone XL pipeline has become such a lightning rod issue. The reason: it is symbolic of the overall short-sightedness of increasing our long-term addiction to oil rather than pushing with urgency toward renewable energy.

Fri, 2013-09-20 11:18Steve Horn
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This Graphic Says It All About Keystone XL Web of Deceit

Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE) and 350.org have jointly unveiled an easily sharable graphic depicting the web of deceit surrounding the environmental review for the northern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline

The graphic's notorious star: Environmental Resources Management, Inc., better known as ERM Group. ERM Group was chosen by the State Department - more specifically by Transcanada for the State Department - to perform the review.

“[T]he process has a built-in conflict of interest, because the contractors who do EIS studies for the government are paid for by the applicant,” a July investigative piece in Bloomberg explains

The graphic serves as a summation of lots of the work done here on DeSmogBlog over the last six months. In so doing, it digs into conflicts of interest, lobbyist influence peddling and outright corruption occurring at the U.S. State Department pertaining to Keystone XL.

Check out the graphic below:

Fri, 2013-08-30 11:53David Ravensbergen
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At the Limits of the Market Part 2: Why Capitalism Hasn't Solved Climate Change

climate change, capitalism, environmental issues in Canada

Read At the Limits of the Market: Why Capitalism Won't Solve Climate Change, Part 1.

One answer to the question of why free market capitalism has failed to generate technological solutions to the crisis of climate change is that green innovation simply isn’t as profitable as speculation. In an era when financial markets generate record profits and investment banks are too big to fail, the long work of investment, research and construction of new energy infrastructure simply isn’t attractive to profit-seeking corporations.

Faced with the clear failure of the free market to respond to the approaching dangers of climate change, politicians have reacted by attempting to coax corporations into serving the needs of people as well as the bottom line. This is typically referred to as finding “market-based solutions.” It sounds good at first: we’ll harness the best minds in the private sector to develop new technology, create new jobs and solve climate change in the process.

But all too often the phrase “market-based solutions” works as a kind of coded communication. In effect, it signals to corporations that the government will not take any measures that could interfere with their business model. Rather than impose meaningful restrictions on emissions or the extraction of fossil fuels, market-based solutions focus on changing behavior by creating the right set of incentives.  

Sun, 2012-12-09 10:21Richard Littlemore
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Do the Math! A Surprisingly Optimistic Video

University of Lethbridge Prof Jim Byrnes weighs in with a short video with survey of numbers both frightening and reassuring. The conclusion is obvious. There's no question we can “afford” to fix the climate problem - only a more pressing question as to why we have not even begun …

Climate Change DO THE MATH! from Scientia Productions on Vimeo.

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