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'Storms of My Grandchildren' by James Hansen

The father of global warming has been sounding the alarm for more than 30 years. He is more discouraged than ever.

December 27, 2009|By Susan Salter Reynolds

Like a hurricane approaching landfall, Hansen picks up momentum toward the end of the book. "A scientist should be clear and blunt about what he thinks," he writes, "even if the authorities don't like it." He wants the reader to understand what he sees as the key issue: "When [politicians] tell you that they are going to solve the problem via a 'goal,' 'binding target,' or a 'cap,' you know that they are lying. Yes, lying is a harsh word, so you may instead say 'kidding themselves,' but I expect that one day your more perceptive grandchildren will say that you let the politicians lie to you."

Hansen is not big on personal emissions reductions, efficiency and recycling efforts or renewable lifestyle choices. He applauds the effort but does not feel it will do the trick. "Can we quantify the duplicity of our governments?" he asks. "Can we show that the goals for future emissions reductions are figments of their imagination, entirely inconsistent with the policies that they are busy adopting? Indeed we can."

What we need, he suggests, is a "linear phaseout of coal emissions by 2030 (emissions reduced to half by 2020)." But he has no faith that governments, driven by special interests, will manage that. "Quite the contrary," he argues, "they are pursuing policies to get every last drop of fossil fuel, including coal, by whatever means necessary, regardless of environmental damage."

The scientist catches himself, but it is too late: "Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, or at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old," he writes, drawing himself up on the page, "and I am fed up with the way things are working in Washington."

Salter Reynolds is a writer in Los Angeles.

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