Hansen warns against expectations

The scientist whose pioneering warning to Congress 27 years ago alerted many congressmembers to the issue of climate change now warns not to expect too much out of the Paris climate talks.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration climate scientist James Hansen said in a public letter at the start of the talks that the advance preparations for the talks made clear that an agreement that spins well in public relations terms had become the principal goal.

“My thesis is that Obama actually means well, has some gumption, and wants effective actions to be taken, but he is being very poorly advised,” Hansen wrote. “As a result, people at the working level have been given no effective direction and are producing little. Mostly they are working on spin.”

When the final agreement was announced, Hansen pointed out that it relied mostly limit carbon emissions not with mandatory cuts, but voluntary promises by governments.

“It's a fraud really, a fake,” he said. “It's just bullshit for them to say, ‘We'll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.' It's just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

Secretary of State John Kerry responded, “But with all due respect to him, I understand the criticisms of the agreement because it doesn't have a mandatory scheme, and it doesn't have a compliance enforcement mechanism. That's true. But we have 186 countries, for the first time in history, all submitting independent plans that they have laid down, which are real, for reducing emissions.”