Yes, he is an extremist

His actions have earned him both praise and criticism from the media and scientific community. Recent scientific endeavors of his — including a study last month that was publicized prior to being peer-reviewed — have also generated controversy.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360 last week, Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, opened up about his unconventional career path, his frustration watching policymakers’ four decades of climate inaction, and what he believes the world could look like a century from now.

“I don’t think that I have been alarmist — maybe alarming, but I don’t think I’m an alarmist,” he said. “We have a society in which most people have become unable to understand or appreciate science, and partly that’s a communication problem, which we need to try to alleviate.”

By my definition at least. Because he always, but always, comes up with alarmist and extreme answers. I think particularly of a paper of his about the right price for a carbon tax. He managed to grasp most of the economics of the point. Such a Pigou Tax should be at the expected level of the damage that would be done by emissions. Fair enough and correct.

He then looked at probabilities of various emissions paths. Maybe he got that right and maybe he didn’t, I’m not competent to judge. And his top estimate was for $1,000 per tonne CO2-e. Which might even be a useful number.

Then he got his basic statistics wrong. Because then he said that the carbon tax should be $1,000 per tonne CO2-e. Which is incorrect. You have to weight your various calculations by their probability. Because the likely outcome is of course determined by those probabilities you’ve earlier assigned. And when you do that his answer comes down to somewhere in the Stern-Nordhaus range of $80 to $250 (those two not being directly comparable with each other).

Hansen, alarmist? Yup.

8 thoughts on “Yes, he is an extremist”

  1. That would be the same James Hansen who who openly subscribes to Holocaust-denial memes? Yeah, this one’s not even a question.

  2. He’s a manic self publicist with an ego far bigger than his brain. Alarmist, he’s the modern equivalent of the sandwich board man proclaiming that the end is nigh.

    He’s also a downright ethic-free zone and a compulsive liar. Thoroughly unpleasant and personally offensive and vindictive.

  3. “We have a society in which most people have become unable to understand or appreciate science”

    Well he’s absolutely correct there.

    That is why so many people fall for his nonsense.

    Those who understand and appreciate science, do not.

    Time to channel the great Feynman yet again:

    “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

  4. “Advocating for a “carbon” tax is irrational.”

    Compared to many ideas a carbon tax is relatively sane. At least with a standardized framework a business can attempt to plan around it. When public opinion drives policies in a bad direction it can make sense to choose the least bad of all likely options.

  5. Unfortunately I think Liberal Yank has it right here.

    I am an *A*-GW sceptic but if a policy must be enacted because of the howling nutters and carpetbaggers then carbon tax(es) are the easiest to implement, plan for and (more importantly) remove. Carbon trading etc. means people would end up with assets (sic) requiring compensation when any sceheme was unwound. As it eventually would be.

    Adrew Duffin’s contribution is also good. Excellent signal to noise in these comments so far.

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