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James Hansen: The Bilbo Baggins of Climate Politics

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJanuary 8, 2008 9:37 PM


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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...

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