We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

James Hansen: The Bilbo Baggins of Climate Politics

The Intersection
By Chris Mooney
Jan 8, 2008 9:37 PMNov 5, 2019 10:20 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

In the latest issue of New Scientist, I've got a review of climate change journo Mark Bowen's new book, Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming. I have to say, this book is right up my presumed alley, and yet I had a hard time getting through it. You can't read the entire New Scientist review online, but here are a few parts:

Unfortunately, while Bowen gives play-by-play details - who emailed whom, who sat in on what meeting - Hansen remains curiously distant, or just plain absent, from much of the narrative. The story of his past is given only in a brief interlude in the book's early chapters, and Hansen's central intellectual history - how he became the most influential climate scientist in the US, the discoveries that increasingly frightened him - is held at bay until the third-to-last chapter of the book, where Bowen finally hits his stride.... In the end, I believe we should think of James Hansen as an exceedingly reluctant hero, and an uncomfortable one to boot - the Bilbo Baggins of climate politics. Here's a guy who really just wanted to get back to the hobbit hole of his research, but who was forced by the political situation in which he found himself - and the failures of others to step up and do the job - to march off and confront the dragon. But Hansen seized the moment and took the risk when many others did not, and for that he deserves to be celebrated.

Anyways, as I think you can see, I feel pretty strongly that Bowen should have given us James Hansen first, and a "war on science" narrative second. But that didn't happen. Too bad...

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.