February 17, 2009
Has NASA's Hansen Finally Lost His Mind?
Even the realization of Al Gore's dream of "capping" carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants wouldn't satisfy NASA's James Hansen. He wants to shut them all down, despite the untold human misery such hysterical action would inevitably bring. And toward that preposterously unattainable end he is now pushing panic buttons with the alacrity of a man truly possessed.
In a wild rant in Sunday's Guardian responding to British Prime Minster Gordon Brown's green-lighting of the controversial Kingsnorth power plant, the head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies managed to outdo even his own sophomoric guilt trips and fear-mongering. Repeating last year's call for a moratorium on British coal-fired plants, which he has since extended to Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and others, Hansen branded coal as "the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet."
He insisted "that the coal source must be cut off" as "a cap only slows the use of a fuel - it does not leave it in the ground." Calling for a "phase-out of coal," Hansen even restated references to the plants as "factories of death," and trains carrying the black rocks to them as "death trains," the latter a toned-down adaptation of these outrageously offensive words he laid on the Iowa Utilities Board back in October of 2007:
"If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains - no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species."
That he continues to evoke dreadful Nazi Death Camp imagery - however restrained - betrays a mind obsessed beyond reason. Indeed, when R. Naasz, president of the National Mining Association, protested "the  suggestion that coal utilization for electricity generation can be equated with the systematic extermination of European Jewry is both repellant and preposterous," Hansen replied that Naasz "[did] not wish to have the message about the grave future consequences of unrestrained growth in coal-fired power plants publicly stated." Needless to say, he supported his signature straw man argument by blasting "increasing human-made greenhouse gases" as not only "a threat to humanity," but also the "predominant cause of extinction of species."
Of course, horror fans immediately recognize Origin of Species Extinction as a recurring theme in many a Hansen spook-story. Remember how last year's testimony that opening Kingsnorth would lead to the extinction of no less than "400 species" helped convince an OJ-caliber British jury that the criminal vandalism to the plant by six Greenpeace activists was "proportionate response" to the environmental damage the plant would have inflicted upon the region?
But in an effort to inflate the danger to over half of all species globally during Sunday's appeal to Brown, Hansen invoked previous warming periods: [emphasis mine]
"The most threatening change, from my perspective, is extermination of species. Several times in Earth's history, rapid global warming occurred, apparently spurred by amplifying feedbacks. In each case, more than half of plant and animal species became extinct.
Hansen asserted that previous periods of warming were caused by unspecified "amplifying feedbacks," having previously insisted that "the mechanisms causing planetary energy imbalance and global temperature change are the ice-albedo and GHG feedbacks," both of which "are now under control of humans." Yet, the most recent warming period -- prior to the one apparently concluded in 1998 -- was the Medieval Warm Period which ended half a millennium before the industrial age that spawned greenhouse gas-emitting machinery ever began.
Forgive me, but I doubt one need be a rocket (or, for that matter, a climate) scientist to appreciate the sophistry at play here.
Nevertheless, Hansen is so cock-sure that we're experiencing a warming era both unique and enduring, he concluded that "Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know," raising the "sea level 75 metres higher." That's over 12 times Al Gore's hysterically-driven 20 foot prediction and over 120 times the IPCC's "worst-case" prognosis. Clear? Yeah - as mud. Say Jim, just how "clear" will the wellbeing of the "planet we know" be should we heed your hysterical demands to decommission those plants with no immediately available and viable replacement for the vital power they generate?
Behold Hansen's alternate energy plan, as illustrated in a March 2008 letter to Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers, after imploring the power honcho not to proceed with plans to build 2 new plants, claiming they'd be a waste of money. Explaining his sudden concern for Duke's bottom line, he wrote "we have already passed the limit for CO2" necessary to prevent reaching "tipping points," the effects of which include "intensified regional climate extremes" and, of course, "extermination of countless species," therefore "coal-fired power plants built now without CO2 sequestration will soon have to be shut down." So what might fulfill their duty? Wrote Hansen:
"Near-term demands for energy can be satisfied via a real emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energies. Neither carbon sequestration nor nuclear power can help in the near-term, and they both have serious issues even over the longer term."
Yes, carbon sequestration has "issues," not the least of which is lack of an economically and technologically viable design for both capture and long-term storage. And Hansen knows that, their recent carbophobic faux receptivity notwithstanding, bedrock greenies are not likely to renounce their engrained no-nuke ideology any time soon. So he's suggesting that we can replace our primary source of electricity with so-called "green technology."
Sounds great, but before investing in that windmill company, consider these current figures from the Energy Information Administration:
Coal-fired plants contributed 48.4 percent of the Nation's electric power, year-to-date. Nuclear plants contributed 19.4 percent, while 21.4 percent was generated at natural gas-fired plants. Of the 1.1 percent generated by petroleum-fired plants, petroleum liquids represented 0.8 percent, with the remainder from petroleum coke. Conventional hydroelectric power provided 6.4 percent of the total, while other renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind) and other miscellaneous energy sources generated the remaining 3.1 percent of electric power
Of all "renewables," hydroelectric currently stands alone as economically feasible. But with most plants relying on population-relocating dammed water to drive their turbines, it, too, has many detractors. Add limited potential new installation sites and rising green complaints of fish endangerment, and we're not likely to see hydroelectric's reach rise much beyond 6 percent any time soon. And its fellow renewables all require creative tax breaks in order to keep their limited energy flowing. In fact, the new "stimulus" bill includes $20 billion in renewable energy tax incentives, and up to a three year extension of the "production tax credit," a per-kilowatt-hour credit paid to green energy companies to offset the dismal unprofitability of their business models. Surely, the only "green jobs" these policies will create or save will evaporate the moment the plug is pulled on federal subsidies, as will any meager "green energy" they produce.
However they spin it -- Coal remains King. It supplies nearly half the juice with which we power our lights, our refrigeration, our communication and environmental equipment, our land and air traffic control systems, our life-saving medical equipment, and countless other instruments crucial to both civilization and human survival. Not to mention computers, including those Hansen uses to generate his questionable climate models and written fear-mongering of their results.
So James, might you kindly explain -- without mention of extinction or sea-level rise or ice sheet disintegration -- just how you propose we close these "factories of death" without synchronously opening a global arena of human want, suffering and ultimate demise?
It pains me to type this, but this guy's whacky ideas make even Al Gore's lunacy ring marginally sane.
Even after last week's annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting, at which the Goracle likened his battle to stop global warming to that of 19th century abolitionists fighting to end slavery.
Indeed -- in gauging the measure of a movement, one need not delve far beyond its leadership.
Marc Sheppard is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and welcomes your comments.