Xtra Climate Files / Hansen Talks Climate in Sydney

Hansen speaking in Adelaide, March 2010
NASA climate scientist James Hansen has been very busy lately, discussing climate change all over the world.  In this podcast you will hear a talk of about an hour followed by 1/2 hour of great Q&A.  The topic, of course, is our planetary climate crisis, what’s happening now with the science, and what he thinks we should do to deal with it. He has formulated some great ideas in the last year towards some realistic things world governments could and should do to phase out coal, put a price on carbon and keep it all fair and equitable.

He speaks about energy policy too, and clearly feels frustrated with the bias against nuclear power. It’s not that he’s a big advocate of nuclear power, but Hansen realizes that we need carbon-free power and that it cannot all come from what he calls “soft renewables”.  Here are a few other points he makes that are not widely known:

  • The main problem with our energy system is that fossil fuels are cheap.  So to get people to change their behavior, we need a gradually rising price on carbon.   To get the public to accept the additional cost, we need to return this money to the public.
  • The climate system is incredibly sensitive.  We know from paleoclimate history that the climate has changed a lot in the past.  To make predictions of coming climate, climate scientists are not depending on “climate modeling” so much as real data they are getting from the past and the present.
  • Six other countries are developing 4th Generation nuclear plants, and China is building at least 24 new nuclear plants.
  • We will not get rid of nuclear plants, so we should be making them safer.
  • Renewable energy is what everyone wants to hear, but the fact is, they are still invisible on the graph. There is a renewable portion on the graph, but that is burning of biomass.  The dream that soft renewable technologies will be enough is not supported by empirical evidence.  India and china are planning on going with mainly nuclear for their future power.
  • Hansen also expresses his disappointment and frustration with the Obama administration and politicians like Senator John Kerry, who want him to support the Obama administration’s plans for coal and CCS and oil drilling.  Hansen won’t, for obvious reasons.

Hansen also wrote an article while he was in Australia in March. — “Only a carbon tax and nuclear power can save us”, claims The Australian. in its title of his article.  He didn’t really say that, but that could be inferred from what he did say.

The video version of this podcast is in three parts from Blip TV here. This podcast contains all three parts in one episode.

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Climate Scientist James Hansen is known as the ‘grandfather of climate change’ and is perhaps the world’s leading authority on the science of climate change. He is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and has for the last 30 years focused on climate research, publishing more than 100 scholarly articles on the topic.   This talk was presented by Sydney Ideas and the United States Studies Centre, March 11, 2010.