In the sweltering summer of 1988, a NASA scientist named James Hansen appeared before Congress to warn about the dangers of global warming, thus single-handedly kicking off the modern global-warming hysteria. "The Earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements," warned Mr. Hansen. "The global warming now is large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship to the greenhouse effect. ... Our computer climate simulations indicate that the greenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves."
Right, because there were no heat waves before 1988. Mr. Hansen's testimony was filled with alarmist nonsense, as when he proclaimed that there was "only a 1 percent chance of an accidental warming of this magnitude." Never mind that the Earth warmed and cooled regularly long before the advent of anthropogenic carbon emissions - the Medieval Warm Period, for instance, saw average temperatures high enough in the Northern Hemisphere to allow Vikings to settle Greenland at the end of the first millennium A.D. (yes, Greenland really was green back then).
If the past didn't back up Mr. Hansen's 1988 testimony, sadly neither would the future. In the years since, man's industrial capacity has continued to spew more and more carbon into the atmosphere, yet the warming that Mr. Hansen warned of has failed to materialize. As climate scientist Patrick J. Michaels wrote recently for Forbes. "There is no statistically significant warming trend since November of 1996 in monthly surface temperature," and that includes, by the way, "the warmest year in the instrumental record, caused by the great El Nino of 1997-1998."
Never mind such realities; Mr. Hansen has made quite a name for himself - and a pretty penny besides - pushing global warming orthodoxy. Paul Chesser of the Heartland Institute summarizes the busy life of Mr. Hansen:
"[Mr.] Hansen engages in high-profile public advocacy with regard to global warming and energy policy, directly trading on his platform as a NASA astronomer to gain interest and attention. This outside employment and other activities related to his work have included: consulting; highly compensated speeches; policy advocacy; a commercial book; advising Al Gore on his movie 'An Inconvenient Truth'; and most recently, advising litigants on suing states and the federal government."
Now the American Tradition Institute (ATI) wants to know if those activities conform to federal ethics and financial disclosure laws. ATI's Environmental Law Center has filed a lawsuit in federal district court to force NASA to release records pertaining to Mr. Hansen's outside advocacy.
Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and ATI's attorney, explains, "Under federal statutes and NASA rules, employees may not privately benefit from their public office. ... Outside income must be disclosed, certain activities avoided, and permission must be applied for before engaging in permissible outside employment or activities."
Whatever the results of the legal challenge, there's no question that Mr. Hansen has benefited financially from his global warming advocacy. Just last year, Mr. Hansen was the recipient of the prestigious Sophie Prize, a $100,000 environmental award set up in 1997 by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder.
But while they enrich themselves, environmentalists want to bankrupt everyone else. According to a new report published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), it will cost us $76 trillion over the next 40 years to transition to a sufficiently eco-friendly economy. That's more than five times the gross domestic product of the United States; more in fact than the GDP of the entire planet, proving that there really is not enough money in the world to satisfy the fantastical demands of environmentalists.
But that won't stop greens like Mr. Hansen from continuing to get rich by pushing policies that will break everyone else.
Terrence Scanlon is president of the Capital Research Center and publisher of GreenWatch.org.
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