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Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming

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Dr. James Hansen is widely regarded as the leading climate change scientist in the country. For the past twenty-five years, he has headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Just over a year ago, Dr. Hansen went public with a charge that made headlines around the world — that the Bush administration had been trying to silence his warnings about the urgent need to address climate change. Dr. Hansen joins us in our firehouse studio. His story is detailed in a new book by author Mark Bowen titled Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming. Mark Bowen joins us from Massachusetts. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Dr. James Hansen is widely regarded as the leading climate change scientist in the country. It was his testimony to a Senate committee in 1988 that first brought the threat of global warming to the world’s attention. For the past quarter of a century he has headed the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA’s premiere climate research center.

Just over a year ago, Dr. Hansen went public with a charge that made headlines around the world, that the Bush administration had been trying to silence his warnings about the urgent need to address climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: You may have heard Dr. James Hansen mentioned before on Democracy Now! His name has been cited by many guests on the show.

    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: This government, at the behest of its oil company contributors, has been told not to put out information about global warming, not to allow the scientists to talk about their expertise with the press, about the connection between global warming and hurricanes. That happened at NOAA. There’s been pressure on Dr. James Hansen at NASA.

    PAUL EHRLICH: I think it’s true that attitudes have changed slightly in the White House, because they now see a political issue, but they have worked very, very hard to suppress the science on global warming. For instance, they sent some junior jerk to try and keep Jim Hansen, who’s one of our very top climate scientists, from saying what he thought.

    CHRIS MOONEY: Apparently, a NASA aide was instructed to interfere with Hansen’s ability to do press interviews. Actually, this completely backfired, because Hansen is not someone to be told to be quiet. And so, he just went to the media anyway, and it ended up exploding.

    TIM FLANNERY: Can you imagine what it would be like for one of the world’s leading scientists, who is revered by everyone, to have this pipsqueak who lied about his credentials controlling what he tells the public? Just appalling. And, you know, the countries around the world would — I don’t know what they’d pay to have the advice of a Jim Hansen. It’s the sort of stuff we all desperately need. And here, in a country that actually pays him a salary and allows him to do his work, he is silenced. I mean, I honestly cannot see the sense of that. I can’t see who benefits.

AMY GOODMAN: That last speaker was acclaimed Australian scientist and writer Tim Flannery. Well, today, Dr. James Hansen himself joins us in our firehouse studio. His story of how the Bush administration tried to silence his warnings on climate change is detailed in a new book. It’s called Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming. It’s written by author Mark Bowen. He joins us from a studio in Watertown, Massachusetts.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

Dr. Hansen, 1988, talk about the significance of that time.

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, I think it had become clear that the climate was changing and that human-made greenhouse gases were a reason for the long-term trend in the climate. And I just wanted to draw that to the attention of the public, because we really need to do something before the climate change becomes large, just because of the inertia of the system. If we wait until the climate change is large, then it’s too late to stop it from happening.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you do twenty years ago?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, I just reported that the world at that time was getting warmer, and I expected 1988 to be the warmest year in the period of instrumental record, which it did turn out to be, and that humans were primarily the reason for this long-term warming trend.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, that was twenty years ago, and while the Bush administration has gotten a lot of attention for its failure to heed any kinds of warnings, there was another administration before that, the Clinton administration, as well. And I think Bowen talks in the book about some problems that you had with Al Gore and — could you talk about how the Clinton administration reacted to some of the warnings you raised?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, my concern is general with both Republican and Democratic administrations. They both feel that they can control what scientists say to the public. So their offices of public affairs in the science agencies are headed, in general, by political appointees, and they review the press releases before they go out. So, it doesn’t really make sense in a democracy. The public should be honestly informed. And then, of course, the publications are allowed to make the decisions, and they don’t have to follow exactly what the science says. There are other considerations that they have. But they shouldn’t influence what is presented, the scientific evidence. And I object to that, regardless of which administration is in power.

AMY GOODMAN: So, before we go on to the Bush administration, where you did have the most trouble, can you talk about what happened during the Clinton years and how you were able to express or not your research?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, the one particular event that stands out in my mind is when I wrote a paper called “Global Warming in the 21st Century: An Alternative Scenario,” in which I emphasized that it’s not only carbon dioxide, but other climate forcings — methane and black soot — and we need to address those also. And for some reason, the people in the White House didn’t like emphasis on the non-CO2 parts of the story, and I just — the press release just kept coming back, and I would try to change it, they would change it, and finally I gave up. I just couldn’t get a press release through the way I wanted it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: So, in essence, in these kinds of press releases, there’s a back-and-forth, as the White House or the environmental people at the White House —-


JUAN GONZALEZ: —- edit your press releases?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Yeah. And that’s another strange thing, because they don’t even admit that it’s going to the White House. You know, it goes to NASA headquarters, and then it sort of disappears for a couple weeks. And where is it? Well, it’s very often at the White House, and I mentioned that. And now, they tried not to make that known, you know? And that’s, again, something that’s very inappropriate, in my opinion. And again, it’s happened in both administrations.

AMY GOODMAN: So let’s talk about what happened when the Bush administration came in. You were continuing to do your research. First of all, explain your place of work and the significance of NASA Goddard.

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, NASA is important, I think, because of the global observations that we make from satellites. We see what’s happening, for example, on Greenland and then West Antarctica. My laboratory is also involved in the global models that try to interpret what’s happening. And we’re also located at Columbia University, where we have the opportunity to work with people who have the data from the history of the earth over thousands and millions of years. You put together these different things — the satellite information, the information on how the earth responded in the past when greenhouse gases changed and other things changed, and the models — and then you get a picture of how the system works.

And that’s what really concerns me, because it’s the inertia of the system which tells us we’re already pushing it, so that it’s going to respond more over the next several decades. There’s a lot more climate response which is already in the pipeline, that we haven’t seen it yet, and that’s why we have to have an understanding of what’s happening, so we can take the actions now before it’s too late.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Of course, the speech of yours that got even more attention was then in December of ’97 — was it? — when you also then raised again the sense that you were — not only that the planet was reaching the tipping level in terms of the dangers of greenhouse emissions, but also, shortly afterwards, you started getting the articles appearing in the New York Times and other places about the direct attempts by the government to silence you.

DR. JAMES HANSEN: 1997 — I think you mean —-

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m sorry, 2007.

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Yeah, 2006, I believe. I gave a speech in December of 2005 at the American Geophysical Union meeting, in which I tried to connect the dots. And the dots extend all the way to the role of special interests in confusing the public, you know, in not allowing straight scientific discussion of what’s happening and what’s causing it.

And, of course, the main problem is fossil fuel use. And the truth is, we cannot put all of the fossil fuel -— the carbon dioxide from all the fossil fuels back into the atmosphere without creating a completely different planet. The last time that carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere, there was no ice on the planet. It was a completely different planet. And we have to realize we either are going to have to leave a lot of the fossil fuels in the ground, or else we’re going to have to capture the carbon dioxide when the fossil fuels are burned. And that just is not well understood, and the fossil fuel companies would rather that you didn’t understand that.

AMY GOODMAN: Who are those special interests, those fossil fuel companies that you’re talking about?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, it’s —-

AMY GOODMAN: How do they stop the conversation?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, it’s the coal industry, and it’s also the oil industry. And they -— you know, they put out disinformation, they fund a small number of scientists, and they expect the media to give you a balanced story. And by “balanced,” they mean that the scientists are saying that something’s happening, it would have to balanced by someone saying, “Oh, this is just natural.” You know, and even though the story has become very clear — you know, it’s 99.99 percent certain that humans are influencing the climate — but still, they make the story appear much less certain than it is, and therefore, why should we take actions as long as it’s uncertain?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Dr. James Hansen, who is heading up the NASA’s Goddard Institute. He has for twenty-five years. And when we come back, we will also be joined by Mark Bowen, who has written a book about James Hansen called Censoring Science. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming. Our guests are Dr. James Hansen, himself — for the past twenty-five years he’s headed NASA’s Goddard Institute — we are also joined by Mark Bowen, who wrote Censoring Science.

Mark, well, thank you very much for joining us from Massachusetts. Why did you choose to take this on as the topic of your book?

MARK BOWEN: Well, actually, I was going to write a — I was hoping to write a book about Jim, anyway, back in 2005, back in the fall of 2005. I was actually talking to an editor about doing that, and — because he’s been the person who has explained why the climate is changing now for about thirty years. He played a big role in the first book I wrote called Thin Ice. And so, I was just kind of amazed when all of a sudden he made the headlines there in the New York Times at the end of January 2006. And I actually waited about a month because of a funny kind of arrangement I had with my editor where he was supposed to contact Jim first, but then, at the end of February, I called Jim and sent him an email, and he responded within, it turns out, about twenty minutes and said, “Sure, let’s do it.” And so, I’ve been trying to keep up with him basically now for about two years, as I tried to write this book, as he continued to just move along at this breakneck pace you see.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in your book, you talk quite a bit about what was going on in the Bush administration in reaction to Dr. Hansen’s statements and viewpoints. In some of the clips that we ran, people kept referring to this young “pipsqueak” or this political appointee. Talk about Michael Deutsch [sic], the young man right out of college, and his efforts to muzzle Dr. Hansen.

MARK BOWEN: OK, his name is George Deutsch.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m sorry. George Deutsch, yes.

MARK BOWEN: He was a twenty-four-year-old political appointee. He was in an unusually senior position for a person of his experience or lack of experience. He had come straight from the Bush-Cheney war room for the reelection campaign. As it turned out, he had neglected to graduate from college, although he had put that on his resume. And according to the person who hired him for this post, he told her also that he had graduated from college, point blank.

But it’s not really true to say that he was the person who squelched Jim Hansen. He was acting clearly on orders from the top two or at least the second-in-command of public affairs at NASA at the time, a fellow named Dean Acosta, who is the assistant — I don’t know, they have complicated names — assistant — deputy assistant administrator for public affairs. And Mr. Deutsch — Mr. Acosta was working in concert with people from the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the White House.

The way that it played out, because they were so cunning about doing it, was that all the standard media outlets could pin it on was this young man. The New York Times, for instance, left it at that. And so, in my book, I go into fairly complete detail about exactly what was going on, because they were very consciously not leaving a paper trail, telling people not to send emails on this issue, and trying to keep it all — they would often — they would hold meetings where there would be generally two senior political appointees and one career NASA person, so there would be no witnesses at the NASA person’s level. And then that person would be told not to put anything in writing and not to send emails about it, only to communicate by telephone and voice or in meetings. But this George Deutsch, unfortunately, he was kind of young and inexperienced, and he did leave an email trail, and that was part of the reason that the New York Times even printed the story, was because there was at least some evidence of a documentary sort. It’s not true that it was just George Deutsch doing it.

AMY GOODMAN: So here was this young man, George Deutsch, who you had to go through, you had to get approval for to do your interviews with the public, with reporters; is that right, Dr. Hansen?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, yeah, after my talk at AGU, I was told that I had to have prior approval to speak to the media. And for a few days, I followed that procedure, and they did disallow me to speak to National Public Radio, for example, and they sent a substitute instead of me. And then NPR decided they didn’t want to do the interview. And there were a couple of other cases like that. But then I decided I wasn’t going to let this continue in the long run, and so that was when I contacted other media and Andy Revkin wrote an article for the New York Times.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Dr. Hansen, last year you testified at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Also called to testify was James Connaughton, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. This is some of what Connaughton had to say.

    JAMES CONNAUGHTON: Well, I want to start, as I indicated, of having the highest personal regard and professional regard for Dr. Hansen and his work. My son and I were just watching him on TV last night on the History Channel.

    Congressmen, senior administration officials, highly accomplished senior scientists, we all chafe at having to talk to our public affairs people, but the public affairs people are there for a reason. They’re there to organize and be sure that what we are saying is official government policy, is understood, and that the people who might have to then respond to those statements can effectively do so. I mean, this is a process that’s been with us for a long, long time, and it works well. Now, we all chafe from it. I can understand Dr. Hansen especially chafing if it comes from someone relatively young and inexperienced. But the policy of public affairs is a very important one.

    Now, I would note that I am not aware of any instance where any scientist in pursuing their science, of any scientist in seeking peer review of their science, was in any way controlled, handled or otherwise managed in their scientific work. I mean, from what I see all over the world and with people coming to me, scientists come and speak their mind to me, they come and speak their mind to you. What we’re talking about is a science policy interface, and that has significant implications that require some level of management.

AMY GOODMAN: Prior to his confirmation as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Connaughton worked as a lobbyist for the mining, chemical and utilities industries. Dr. James Hansen, respond to what he has to say.

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, the point is that scientists should be able to give the results of their science. And this — both in the case of testimony to Congress and in science that is presented to the public through the media, it makes no sense that it should be censored by the White House before the scientist is able to speak. I mean, what is the rationale by which the White House can review and change testimony to Congress before it’s given? I mean, that’s — there’s no rationale. And our democracy assumes that the public and Congress is well informed.

The story that I was told when I was asked, why do I have to have my testimony reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget in the White House before it’s given to Congress, and they said, “Well, your testimony needs to be consistent with the President’s budget.” I mean, it doesn’t make sense.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mark Bowen, I’d like to ask you, in that clip we had of James Connaughton, he was also — the White House Council on Environmental Quality, his staff particularly, were the ones who also edited immediately after the 9/11 attacks the press releases from the EPA about the health and safety situation that the public was exposed to, and an IG report later made clear that the White House had downplayed inappropriately the health risks that people faced. In your research on Dr. Hansen, to what degree is this a widespread practice throughout the Bush administration, in terms of how they deal with science and the putting out of science information to the public?

MARK BOWEN: It’s everywhere. It’s all over the place. Right after Jim went public there in late January, there was a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, and the Union of Concerned Scientists organized a little side meeting, which was completely filled, just overflowing with scientists from all over the government, telling similar incidents.

And at that meeting, David Baltimore, who was the — well, he was president-elect of the association at the time, he said that he wasn’t surprised. Every time he heard a new incident, he wasn’t surprised to hear it. He said it was the result of a theory of government, and he was talking, of course, about this kind of imperial presidency, the unitary executive, that sort of thing. And I have — there’s a chapter of the book entitled “A Theory of Government that We Must Vociferously Oppose.” That’s a quote from David Baltimore’s speech.

We don’t — it would be boring to go into the litany of public agencies, everything from the Fish and Wildlife Service to the EPA to the FDA, that have experienced similar control of scientific information.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Philip Cooney, the former chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He also testified at that House hearing last year. He was questioned by Representative Henry Waxman, the chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Mr. Cooney, you had a senior position at the White House, but there were officials in the White House who were more senior to you. Your immediate boss was James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Was Mr. Connaughton aware of your role in proposed edits for climate change reports?

    PHILIP COONEY: He knew that we were reviewing reports as they came in ordinarily from OMB for review.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Did he personally review your edits?

    PHILIP COONEY: No, not most —-

    UNIDENTIFIED: Mr. Chairman.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Did you discuss -—

    UNIDENTIFIED: Mr. Chairman, his boss is behind him and is available.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Yeah, excuse me, but I have the time. I didn’t interrupt you. I waited ’til you were finished, then I interrupted you. Did you discuss the edits with him?

    PHILIP COONEY: No, not ordinarily.

    REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Did he give you any instructions about how any of these three documents should be edited?

    PHILIP COONEY: No. He understood that my objective was to align these communications with the administration’s stated policy.

AMY GOODMAN: Philip Cooney had come from the American Petroleum Institute, worked at the White House until 2005, and then left to return to a familiar haunt, taking a job as a corporate issues manager with Exxon Mobil.

Mark Bowen, talk about the email trail and the documentation you have of Philip Cooney, of James Connaughton, of how the White House censored the reports.

MARK BOWEN: Well, first of all, it’s very clear that James Connaughton was playing a very definite role in editing those reports. His name is all over it. Even Karl Rove is involved at one point.


MARK BOWEN: Not so much in the report, but in — actually it was in — early on, I think it was — well, when Christie Whitman was still the administrator of EPA, she was very embattled, because she was actually in favor of doing something about global warming. It became known — and this is what caused Philip Cooney to lose his job — it became known that the CEQ, Council on Environmental Quality, was editing a climate subsection of a report on the environment by EPA. When that went public, a disgruntled EPA employee brought it public, there was, of course, a major response by the White House. It was at that time that Karl Rove became involved, actually, and encouraged and helped Philip Cooney figure out how to respond to the media.

But, yeah, the email trail is quite clear that not only was Philip Cooney, James Connaughton — there was a fellow named William O’Donovan [Kevin O’Donovan], I think he was. He was a special assistant to the Vice President on domestic policy, who also left the government to go work for Shell shortly thereafter, who was involved. And they were exchanging emails on a regular basis with people from Exxon Mobil, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and so on and so forth, in which they were — you know, they were kind of these funny, joking emails in which they were poking fun, calling people names, including calling Jim Hansen names, and figuring out responses to these discomfiting things that were coming up in the media. But the whole policy was very clearly worked out by this kind of gang of people.

And I think this — in that same hearing in which Philip Cooney was being — was testifying with Jim — by the way, there’s an amazing picture that I’ve received from the New York Times with Jim Hansen holding his hand up, with George Deutsch on one side of him and Philip Cooney on the other. That was how Jim testified at that hearing.

There was a Democratic congressman from Kentucky named Yarmuth, who revealed that the staff members from Waxman’s committee had gotten access to a whole bunch of communications between the Council on Environmental Quality, Philip Cooney and the Vice President’s office. And he read from one of them. It became clear that there was a lot of communication going on on a regular basis with the Vice President’s office. And what this prompted was a lawyer from CEQ to stand up, and basically there was about a fifteen-minute discussion. James Connaughton also stood up — this is while Philip Cooney was testifying — and made it clear that the committee was not allowed to use that information because they were invoking executive privilege to keep any communications with the Vice President off the record. But there’s a lot of evidence somewhere, and Mr. Yarmuth very slyly managed to get it into the record. What he did was he read from a hand transcription of an email that one of his staffers had been allowed to look at but not use as part of the record and hearing.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, James Hansen, when all of this was going on — you’re a career scientist — what your fellow scientists in NASA and other parts of the government, what was their reaction to — one, to the advisability of you standing up and how they felt about it, as well as to how they acted when this kind of censorship or muzzling of their viewpoints was occurring?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, I think a discouraging thing is that people have come to accept this, to expect it, you know, and I think we have to strongly object to this. It’s interesting that — the thing you just showed, where Philip Cooney said, “Well, I was just aligning the science to fit the policy.” Well, that’s — that’s just nonsense, I mean, if they can make their policy decisions without following exactly what the science — where it might make you go because the executives have other sources of information and various things they’re trying to do. But they shouldn’t change the science itself. But they’re doing that on a widespread basis, and we have to object to that. But, of course, scientists are, you know, concerned about our job and do not easily object to it, but I think that we have to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: You met with Vice President Dick Cheney?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Yes, I spoke with the six cabinet members on the Climate and Energy Task Force that the vice chairman —- the Vice President was the chair of in 2001.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you tell him?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, at that time, we made clear that the climate was changing because of human-made changes in atmospheric composition and that carbon dioxide was the primary cause of that, but there were other gases also that affect it. And we tried to give an indication of the kind of scenario for the future that we’re going to need to follow if we’re going to avoid disastrous climate effects over the next several decades.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was the response?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, the response, frankly, was the withdrawal of the US from any agreements for addressing the global climate change problem. And we’ve -—

AMY GOODMAN: You mean pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Yes, for example, and not — and again going more after more fossil fuels, rather than alternatives such as improved energy efficiency for future energy needs.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of some of your analysis about the road ahead out of this growing crisis, the both immediate and long term, what do you see as some of the key things that our government, as well as other governments around the world, need to do?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, the most important thing is — if you just look at how much carbon dioxide there is in the different fossil fuels, coal is the really big issue. The important step is to have a moratorium on any new coal-fired power plants until we have the technology to capture the carbon dioxide and sequester it. And if we would do that, that’s a good fraction of the solution. But we’re also going to have to use the other fossil fuels more conservatively. We’re going to need to emphasize energy efficiency. And eventually we have to find sources of energy that don’t produce greenhouse gases.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m just looking at a piece in the New York Times from a few days ago by Andrew Revkin that said, “Dr. Hansen “and eight co-authors have drafted a fresh paper arguing that the world has already shot past a safe eventual atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which they say would be around 350 parts per million, a level passed 20 years ago,” Andrew Revkin writes. This is controversial. “Some longtime champions of Dr. Hansen, including the Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm, see some significant gaps in the paper” — still in draft form — “and part ways with Dr. Hansen over whether such a goal is remotely feasible.”

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, yeah. Unfortunately, Joe feels that we have to talk about what’s practical. I think we have to look at the science and tell us exactly what it — and tell the people exactly what it is pointing to. And the history of the earth tells us that even 385 parts per million is too much. And we can still go backwards. The ocean does take up carbon dioxide. If we would phase out the use of coal, except to recapture the CO2, then it is feasible to get back below 350 parts per million. But we’re going to have to put a stop on new coal-fired power plants until we have the technology to capture the CO2.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see that happening with any of the candidates right now, what they’re proposing?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: I think it could happen. I think — I haven’t seen either — any of the candidates say we’re going to have a moratorium on coal-fired power plants. But they’re beginning to say things to recognize the problem. So I think it’s possible, but no one has exactly stated that.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I mean, it seems that in terms of the reaction of many of the candidates to the increasing crisis in terms of supply of oil is that they’re looking at either — at nuclear energy or increased coal use to sort of deal with trying to get the country more energy independent, rather than the long-term prospects of actually having more efficient use of energy and reductions in terms of our society adjusting dramatically to a different use of energy in the future.

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Yeah, and they’re saying things like, “Well, we will reduce by 2050 the CO2 emissions by 60 percent or 80 percent,” but they really need to have a specific strategy, and that, I do think, has to start with coal. If we would phase that out — oil — we’re going to hit peak oil very soon, if we haven’t already.

AMY GOODMAN: Which means?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Which means that we have used half of the oil that’s readily available. And so, the amount — the emissions from oil are going to start to decline just because the supply of oil is limited. So that’s why coal becomes the issue. Now we’re starting to use more and more coal, and we just can’t do that unless we have the technology to capture the CO2.

AMY GOODMAN: How dire is the situation right now?

DR. JAMES HANSEN: It’s becoming dire, because we have to start within the next few years on a track — on a different track. We have to realize that we have to get to energy sources beyond fossil fuels, and we need to do that sooner. The fossil fuel companies want you to believe that, well, let’s use up all the fossil fuels, and then we’ll worry about what we’re going to do after that. Unfortunately, we can’t do that unless we capture the carbon dioxide.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Mark Bowen, this is your second book on the issue, Censoring Science, this, your latest. What were you most surprised by in your research for this book?

MARK BOWEN: Would you mind if I just responded a little bit to the Joseph Romm comment that you mentioned earlier?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, go ahead.

MARK BOWEN: I think if you actually read his remarks, he doesn’t part ways significantly with Jim. I don’t think Andy really got that right. He’s agreeing very much with Jim’s analysis. I think Jim is right in saying that he doesn’t think that what Jim is proposing is politically feasible, but he follows the logic of Jim’s arguments very well. And, in fact, there’s one way in which — well, we don’t have to get into details, but anyway — so I don’t — I think at least Joseph Romm is certainly agreeing with most of the logic of what Jim is saying.

Well, what I found most shocking? I’ve said this a couple times. I think what was most shocking was, first of all, the widespread corruption. It was just everywhere. It was all over the top echelons of NASA. And that’s a little shocking, really.

I think — you know, I was talking to a — I gave a talk a couple weeks ago, and there was a science teacher from Burlington, Massachusetts, which isn’t far from here, who told me that when she saw Al Gore’s movie — or she showed it to her kids in her class — she’s an elementary school science teacher — they were — the most interesting thing they saw was the incident where Jim was actually censored by George W. Bush’s father in 1989. They found that amazing. They were astounded by that. I’m not too astounded by it, because I was aware of that. But in this administration, it’s just everywhere, and that was a little shocking.

The next thing was just the arrogance of it, the ineptitude of it. They were caught because they didn’t do it even remotely well. And what that really translated into was just stupidity. I mean, didn’t they know they were going to get caught? Didn’t they realize that ultimately — you know, most of the people in NASA — everybody, really, except the political appointees, is honest, experienced, good at what they do. I was very impressed with them.

Also, the Republican staffers on Sherwood Boehlert’s committee — you know, at the time that Jim went public there in January 2006, both houses of Congress were Republican-dominated, and it was a Republican committee chairman of the House Science Committee who went after NASA on this when Jim went public, and his two staffers, David Goldston and Johannes Loschnigg, who did the investigation for Mr. Boehlert, also were extremely good at what they did, very honest, and were shocked at what they saw.

So, you know, most of the people in government — I was actually very inspired by most of the people I met in government. It was just this cabal up at the top who were just shockingly corrupt and shockingly arrogant and therefore stupid, really.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there. Mark Bowen, author of Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming, and Dr. James Hansen, himself — for the past twenty-five years, he’s headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies — thank you so much for joining us.

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