I’ve critized James Hansen for things he said. It’s only fair then, to point out something he didn’t actually say.
President Obama ‘has four years to save Earth.’
This is the headline of the article from the Guardian. I love the quotation marks, which make it look like a direct quote. And here’s what we find in the article:
Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. That is the stark assessment of Nasa scientist and leading climate expert Jim Hansen…
Wow, not only do we have only four years, but that’s all the time we have to save the world! (Does someone think that global warming will cause the Earth to spontaneously combust and burn to a cinder?)
But peruse the actual interview on which the article is based, and here’s what you actually find Hansen saying:
“We cannot now afford to put off change any longer. We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world.
Well, that’s considerably different. Whether we can afford to put off change is arguable, but to say we can’t afford to put it off is certainly a far more plausible claim than “we have only four years to save the world.” And as to the claim that Obama has only four years to set an example…well, yeah, that’s the term of his office. Sure, he might be re-elected, but there’s no certainty of that, so Hansen’s claim is correct enough. If he’s not elected, then in 2013 it will be too late for him to set an example.
Hansen is guilty here of speaking too carelessly and failing to make sure a reporter understood what he said (and he really ought to know better by now), but what he actually said, when read by a person whose IQ exceeds that of French Toast (i.e, not a reporter) is entirely reasonable.