- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2013

James E. Hansen will no longer be touring the country preaching his end-times hysteria, collecting a $158,832 government paycheck for it. Mr. Hansen demonstrated a certain mastery of the art of leveraging, using his position as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to promote a personal brand of global warming quackery. On Tuesday, Mr. Hansen announced his retirement. The vaudeville circuit won’t be the same.

Giving up his sinecure frees Mr. Hansen of pesky ethics rules limiting how much extra cash he can make speaking to audiences gullible enough to believe the weather will change if only a few more people buy a Toyota Prius. Al Gore learned this lesson after losing the 2000 election, the best thing that ever happened to him. Mr. Gore, who had never held a real job, cashed in on the global warming craze, too. Forbes magazine, which tracks these things, says he accumulated $300 million.

That appeals to Mr. Hansen, who long ago traded science for celebrity. NASA’s Goddard Institute was formed to perform basic research to support space missions, which Mr. Hansen transformed into a propaganda mill generating tall tales about an overheated planet. Even this bored Mr. Hansen, who regularly skipped out to mingle with Hollywood twinklies like Daryl Hannah, protesting mining operations in West Virginia to be arrested in better view of the cameras.

He once repeated the stunt in front of the White House to collect maximum attention and praise for the “courage” to say what everyone in the covens of the left wanted to hear. Some “courage.” Mr. Hansen peddled outlandish rhetoric at hearings, once invoking imagery of the Holocaust to describe coal trains as “no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria.” Those dispatched to the crematoria at Auschwitz or Buchenwald would no doubt have preferred passage on a “gruesome” coal train to anywhere.

Perhaps there’s more here than meets the eye. Mr. Hansen reads the newspapers and he can see the tide of scientific opinion slowly but surely turning against the fanciful notion that man’s collective carbon-dioxide exhalations are heating the planet. Last month, the journal Science published a paper entitled, “A reconstruction of regional and global temperature for the past 11,300 years,” which was cited as “vindication” of the so-called hockey stick theory that the planet today is the hottest ever. Within two weeks, the authors “retracted” the bold claim, “clarifying” that “the 20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions.” The term “not statistically robust” is academic argle-bargle for “the numbers don’t add up.”Losing the ability to instill fear through hysterical claims about an overheating planet would deny Mr. Hansen the second-most-important element of his act. The most important, of course, has always been his prestigious NASA title, which added a veneer of credibility to his wild assertions.

Mr. Hansen nevertheless remains a hero to the left. Book deals, the speaking circuit and directorships of crony capitalist “green” companies will soon elevate Mr. Hansen to the “1 percent” with Al Gore. The good news is that the rest of us won’t have to pay for it.

The Washington Times