Q&A: James Hansen

James Hansen, head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, on why CO2 should be declared a pollutant.

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Mother Jones: What will be the hardest thing to fix in the Bush administration’s legacy to science?

James Hansen: The hardest thing to fix will be the result of Bush reneging on his campaign promise to declare CO2 from power plants as a pollutant. It is practically impossible to retrieve the CO2 once it has been emitted. Much of it stays in the air more than 1,000 years. Because of his broken promise many coal-fired power plants were built, that would not otherwise have been built. Very hard to fix—there is a strong reluctance to bulldoze a new power plant that cost more than a billion dollars to build. Our great-grandchildren will suffer because of his broken promise.

MJ: What will be the easiest thing to fix?

JH: Restore the first line of the NASA mission statement: to understand and protect the home planet.

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If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

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