Global Warming Alarmist James Hansen Speaks at USC
By Jonathan Williams
This past Thursday, October 23, 2008, Dr. James Hansen came to the University of South Carolina to speak on his favorite topic, Man Made Global Warming. This event was sponsored by USC’s School of the Environment and is part of a series of talks on the environment and climate.
As one might expect, the place was packed with Hansen fans and the questions after the initial speech were very friendly towards his position. I was tempted to ask a question but that would have involved me not getting a videotaped response which wouldn’t have been worth it..
The goal of this article is not to be a complete rebuttal to his speech but instead to point out some flaws I found in his argument. If you wish to watch the whole 45 minute long speech, it can be viewed here:
Dr. Hansen claims that that this drastic drop in temperature experienced around 50 million years ago was due to the drop in CO2 at the same time. However, there is another theory out there that would explain the drop in temperature. This theory, proposed by Nir Shaviv, takes into account the position of our planet in relation to the rest of the galaxy. Take a look:
“About 60 million years ago, the Sun with the Earth in company encountered that region, which was populated then as it is now by bright, short-lived stars. The Solar System came from the far side of the bright arm, as we see the Milky Way now. It emerged on the near side about 30 million years ago. There, the number of exploding stars was at a peak, and so was the intensity of cosmic rays generated by them.
“Shaviv adopted the Danish findings about the climatic effect of cosmic rays, and their capacity to chill the world by increasing the low cloud cover. In this interpretation, global temperatures fell between 60 and 30 million years ago and Antarctica acquired its ice sheet. As the Sagittarrius-Carina Arm receded, the cooling hesitated, and it would have reversed if the wanderers through the Galaxy had not run into an extra fragment of concentrated bright stars called the Orion Arm.
“Published in 2002, Shaviv’s analysis accounted not only for the most recent hothouse-to-icehouse transition but altogether for four major chilling events since animals first became conspicuous on the planet, a little over 500 million years ago.” (Svensmark, 136).
Much of the historical warming and cooling stated by Hansen in this section of his speech could be explained by this cosmic rays theory.
The problem that I have about this is that it leaves the viewer with the idea that there is less and less ice without stating the fact that even though more and more is melting in the summer, the past winter we are getting all of it come back. In fact, because of extremely cold temperatures last winter, the sea ice has expanded and gotten thicker in some areas.
Also, during his whole spiel on the arctic ice, he doesn’t really address Antarctica. The reason this is important is that Antarctica ice, as a whole, is growing and has grown roughly 5mm/year (Solomon, 41). In fact, during this period of warming, Antarctica is acting as a water sink that is actually contributing to lowering the sea level an estimated .08mm/year (Solomon, 41).
He didn’t even bother to acknowledge this fact or address this issue even though us “skeptics” often use this argument.
Lake Mead, Forest Fires, and Glaciers
This section of his speech is just chalked full of assumptions and statements of fact that completely gloss over some of Denier’s explanations of these events.
Let’s start off with his Lake Mead argument that its global warming that is causing the droughts that in turn are causing a drop in water levels. I’m not going to deny that droughts may be contributing to thing but I would like to point out a couple of things. Well first off, I would just like to highlight the fact that Nevada’s water usage is steadily increasing and Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in Nevada if not the USA. Therefore, one might assume that the decreasing level of the lake could be at least partially contributed to the increasing strain of water usage in that region.
Next, Hansen tries to blame the increasing number of forest fires strictly on global warming but he forgets to mention one key part of history.
Up until the 1970s, forest fires were considered bad and every measure was taken to prevent them from happening. However, as we know now, fires were actually beneficial to the forests and cleared out a lot of the deadwood and undergrowth. When the 70s rolled around, the environmental movement took hold and switched from an “all fires are bad fires” to “naturally caused fires are good fires” but the problem was that these forests had decades of deadwood and underbrush accumulation that virtually made these forest giant tinderboxes waiting to be lit. Going back to the ‘natural’ let it burn policies would create anything but naturally beneficial forest fires. This was illustrated in 1988 when Yellowstone National Park experienced its biggest forest fire that destroyed over a million acres and cost over $120 million dollars in damages. (Murray, 160).
Since then, the National Forest Service has tried to use controlled burns to help get the natural cycle back into place but have in at least two occasions started out of control forest fires instead.
To get more on this topic and a larger idea of why forest fires have indeed increased over the past couple decades, read Iaian Murray’s book “The Really Inconvenient Truths” pages 153-167.
Now this is one thing that environmentalist have tried again and again to make it seem that these glaciers are receding faster and faster because of global warming. The problem with that is it’s just not true.
People have to keep in mind that in the 1800s, the earth started to come out of an era known as the “Little Ice Age” so things began to warm up worldwide, particularly before the major use of fossil fuels. While I’m not going to deny that glaciers have retreated, I am going to question whether or not it has been caused by increasing CO2.
According to Bjorn Lomborg, many of the glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere reached their maximum in the “Little Ice Age” and have been retreating ever since the 1800s. Take a look:
“In fact, most glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere were small or absent from nine thousand to six thousand years ago. While glaciers since the last ice age have waxed and waned, they overall seem to have been growing bigger and bigger each time until they reached their absolute maximum during the Little Ice Age. It is estimated that glaciers around 1750 were more widespread on earth than any other time since the ice ages twelve thousand years ago…
“So it is not surprising that as we are leaving the Little Ice Age we are seeing glaciers dwindling. We are comparing them with their absolute maximum over the past ten millennia. The best-documented overview of glaciers shows that they have been receding continuously since 1800.” (Lomborg, 55).
That’s right, they have been ‘receding continuously’ since the early 1800s, well before the peak of fossil fuels use. Just be sure to keep that in mind whenever someone blames the receding glaciers on Global Warming.
That Sounds like (Green) Socialism to me
These following two clips really don’t have to do with his argument for global warming; they just have to do with what he says we need to do to fix it. Some of his methods, however, seem to draw heavily from socialist ideals except with a green twist.
Hmmm… someone who will decide what the tax would be almost on a whim. He states that this ‘tsar’ would be able to control it so that tax can decrease in times of economic crisis but obviously the opposite will also be true; this person will have the power to raise the tax astronomically when times are good.
This basically boils down to controlling the market, which according to Hansen would be a one man job. This means that no matter how low oil prices may go, they will be kept artificially high with this ever changing carbon tax.
The only difference between this and regular socialism is that it is targeted to help the environmentalists.
Redistributing the Wealth, Environmentalist Style
Basically, his argument is to take the money from those who use a lot of fossil fuel and give it to those who don’t use that much. Sounds to me like the Environmental version of a socialist redistribution of wealth scheme.
What would a talk by any environmentalist be without some outrageous claims? Well, Dr. Hansen didn’t disappoint and I just want to point out two of these claims to you.
Companies should be legally liable for hiring ‘contrarians’
My goodness, does he really want people to be able to sue companies who go against the “global warming is man’s fault” thinking? That really doesn’t sound very scientific to me. Isn’t the scientific process all about questioning the status quo, testing and retesting theories? In addition to this, you have to look at the 1st amendment implications of this statement. Obviously Hansen isn’t for the open discussion and exchange of ideas if those ideas aren’t in sync with his view of the world.
Eco Terrorists and the Corrupt US Justice System
This is probably the most outrageous section of his entire speech. First, it’s just crazy that even though he doesn’t come out and say that he supports eco-terrorism, he sure gives the Brits glowing remarks for ruling in favor of the law-breaking environmentalist.
Second, he states that it is regretful that the UK court ruling doesn’t set a legal precedent in what the audience has to assume is the United States since he goes immediately into a story about environmental protesters being arrested in Wise, VA. Obviously someone (aka Dr. Hansen) would like the US to defer to other country’s court cases when deciding our own.
And thirdly, Hansen actually makes the claim that the US Justice System is corrupt and is working “hand-in-glove” with the fossil fuel industries. I don’t even know what else to say other than that is completely outrageous and borderline conspiracy theorist.
I know I didn’t rebut everything Dr. Hansen said but I didn’t have the time or the knowledge to do so. If you want to know more about the arguments I made in this article, I would recommend reading some of the books I cite below.
Lomborg, Bjorn. Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.