- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2008

James Hansen, the NASA scientist who 20 years ago warned of global warming disasters, was on stage again recently, once more giving run-for-the-hills testimony before Congress and receiving adulatory comment at every turn. Too bad he’s a vicious-minded extremist whose name should be pilloried instead of praised.

A saint of the left, a hero of the environmentalists, a self-proclaimed martyr to truth and champion of democratic processes, Mr. Hansen has an interesting idea of what to do with those — or at least some of those — who disagree with him. Conduct an inquisition. Strike back at the heretics. But let’s let him speak for himself.

“Special interests have blocked the transition to our renewable energy future,” he wrote in an online piece for World Watch Institute.

“Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil fuel companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, just as tobacco companies discredited the link between smoking and cancer… . CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of the long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature,” he said.

In other words, if you exercise your democratic rights to petition your government and speak freely but also contradict someone in possession of absolute knowledge — in this case, the great, infallible James Hansen — you are to be dragged before the proper authorities and prosecuted, not for some misdemeanor, mind you, but for crimes way, way up there — high crimes — and crimes not just against some group of people or the other, but against all of humanity, and for that matter, against nature itself. One shudders to think of what penalties a guilty verdict might lead to.

The Hansen hubris, his vengefulness and disregard for the core political values that have largely informed this polity of ours since its inception, are of a piece with other leftist calls to get the bad guys — by prosecuting George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration for war crimes, for instance. The left sees its hour arriving, after all, and there are interesting precedents political victors just might heed, such as the retribution exacted following the French, Russian and Cuban revolutions. We need not fear beheadings or firing squads, I suppose, but don’t underestimate the self-righteous vindictiveness here.

“I’d love to see every global warming denier taken out and shot,” wrote one person posting a comment under the Hansen piece on the World Watch Web site. “This would clean up the world quick, and rid us of hateful dumb types,” the person said while adding — blessed relief! — that neither this final solution nor the Hansen-preferred trials would happen. The person’s defense of Mr. Hansen is that Mr. Hansen knows as much.

Maybe, maybe not. For all the cheering directed his way by mainstream media that have paid scant attention to his announced ambition for CEOs, Mr. Hansen strikes me as an irresponsible crybaby, someone who once made it erroneously sound as if his nonstop mouth was being sealed shut by the administration, whose pro-Democratic politics are blatant, whose policy prescriptions outreach his scientific competence and whose predictions of a warming apocalypse are more speculative than he ever comes close to indicating.

Those who take great delight in their ad hominem attacks on scientific skeptics of ruinous, human-caused warming as invariably being on the take from corporations ought also to be told that Mr. Hansen once grabbed a quarter-million dollars given him by the ultra-liberal Heinz Foundation. Oh well, not the same thing, right?

The warming issue is not simple, but it seems clear the wrong policies could be more humanly destructive than warming itself and that climate-change science is making lots of guesses.

One distinguished scientist I know — not a climatologist but someone who at several points in an award-laden career delved into climate issues — stressed in a conversation with me that we just don’t know enough at this point to predict future temperatures. I won’t tell you his name because, for one thing, it was a private conversation, and for another — if I can be allowed a second’s hyperbole to make a point — Mr. Hansen might be out there making lists.

Jay Ambrose is former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard News Service.

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