The Bilbo Baggins of climate politics

I’ve been meaning for some time to blog about renowned NASA climate scientist Dr James Hansen, but for some reason have never got around to it.

Even now I’m not going to write in detail about Hansen’s research or the political shenanigans surrounding his clumsy forays into the political sphere.

The current inhabitants of the Whitehouse and their political appointees in agencies such as NASA and NOAA have on numerous occasions blocked federal employees from publishing scientific data and comment related to climate science and global warming, and engaged in character assassination. Hansen was one of their victims, but this quirky and eccentric individual fought back, and won.

That’s the background, in brief. What I want to do here is draw your attention to a fascinating character portrait of Hansen painted by journalist Chris Mooney. This was published recently as a review in New Scientist magazine of Mark Bowen’s “Censoring Science”, which details the Bush administration’s assault on science.

Mooney’s review is subscriber-only content, so I can do no more than quote a short extract here. But it is a gem of a comment, and sums up Hansen to a tee:

“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 into 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.”

I agree, and wish there were more like Jim Hansen.