Alarmist Hansen ‘Not Interested’ in Debate

Published October 9, 2008

James Hansen, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) staffer who has called for global warming skeptics to be tried for “crimes against humanity and nature,” has tersely declined an invitation to defend his extremist global warming views in a College of William and Mary debate.

‘Not Interested’ in Debate

Braum Katz, secretary for the Department of Student Rights at the College of William and Mary, had invited University of Virginia research professor and former Virginia state climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels to present his case for saying global warming is not an impending crisis. Michaels accepted, expressing an eagerness to give college students an opportunity to learn more about climate science.

When Katz extended a similar invitation to Hansen, expressing a desire for students to hear differing points of view, Hansen responded with a terse, two-word email reply; “not interested.”

Controversial Behavior

In addition to calling for global warming skeptics to be put on trial under the same charges as those leveled against Nazi war criminals, Hansen has created controversy with global warming assessments far more extreme than those of most alarmists.

He also has been roundly criticized for the secretive means by which he alters raw surface temperature readings prior to releasing “cleaned up” temperature reports that assert much greater recent warming than has been reported by other climatologists and state-of-the-art NASA satellite readings.

Avoiding Public Forums

The refusal of global warming alarmists to defend their theory publicly is nothing new, skeptics note. Climate scientists who do not believe humans are causing a global warming crisis frequently report alarmists such as Hansen want nothing to do with any public forum in which both sides of the debate are presented and must be scientifically defended.

Nevertheless, given the educational purpose and university setting, Katz was disappointed to receive Hansen’s terse refusal to present his views.

“I was truly taken aback by Dr. Hansen’s refusal to debate Dr. Michaels,” Katz told the Virginia Informer, a student newspaper at William and Mary. “I gave Dr. Hansen a blank check to come to the College, and still he refused. Dr. Hansen’s suggestion that oil executives who advance global warming skepticism be tried for ‘crimes against humanity’ and subsequent refusal to debate one of the most prominent academic skeptics is suspicious and unfortunate, to say the least.”

Traumatic Debate Disaster

Global warming alarmists have been reluctant to debate and defend their assertions in public since Hansen’s colleague, Gavin Schmidt, participated in a high-profile March 2007 debate at New York City’s prestigious Intelligence Squared debating society.

A pre-debate poll of audience members indicated by a 2 to 1 margin (57 percent to 29 percent, with 14 percent undecided) they believed global warming is a crisis. After three experts from each side of the issue debated the matter, however, the audience indicated by 46 percent to 42 percent they do not believe global warming is a crisis, with 12 percent undecided.

Hansen and Schmidt also declined to participate in the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change last March in New York City. Although Michaels and other leading climate scientists from around the world eagerly accepted the opportunity to discuss the latest scientific evidence regarding global warming, Hansen and Schmidt refused to participate in the event.

Avoiding Critical Questions

“The alarmists claim all the evidence supports their theory, but the only way they can prove that is to actually show up for a debate and win,” said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “If they are afraid to publicly debate and scientifically defend their assertions, it is a good indication who they fear will win the debate.

“It is troubling that a supposedly eminent scientist, who draws his salary from federal taxpayers, is unwilling to publicly explain his beliefs and his policy recommendations unless he is assured in advance that nobody will ask any critical questions,” Lewis said.

“Doesn’t he at least have the intellectual curiosity to hear and consider another point of view?” added Lewis.

“My own suspicion is that if someone is unwilling to tolerate debate and opposing opinions in public, then that person in private is similarly likely to be suppressing other scientific viewpoints,” Lewis said. “One has to wonder if the staff of the publicly funded Goddard Institute really is free to engage in open-minded science, and whether Hansen is stacking the deck with the staff that he supervises.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.